WI: Milwaukee to file complaint against Dynacare after security breach

Hell hath no fury like a city breached? The City of Milwaukee issued this statement today following the theft of a flash drive from a car owned by an employee of Dynacare. The flash drive contained what seems to be unencrypted information on city employees enrolled in a wellness program and their dependents:

Statement of Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley

November 21, 2013

After consultation with members of the Common Council and the Mayor, the Office of the City Attorney has decided to file a formal complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights against Dynacare Laboratories for its admitted breach of HIPAA security requirements regarding the private information of more than 9,000 City of Milwaukee employees, their spouses and their domestic partners.

I will be taking this action on behalf of the city and its employees based on Dynacare’s recent filing of a notice of breach of unsecured protected health information, its apparent unwillingness to communicate or cooperate with city representatives or to release details of its investigation, its failure to provide information to the city in order to protect our employees and the misleading comments Dynacare provided to the media.

It is important to note that the city’s contract for its wellness program is with Froedtert Community Health/Workforce Health. That is the entity to which the city provided employee information in a secured and password-protected manner, not Dynacare. The city continues to investigate the matter, and at this time has not ruled out further litigation.

Of course, some of this “we’re filing a formal complaint” bit is a bit absurd since Dynacare has already self-reported the breach to HHS. Maybe the city doesn’t trust Dynacare’s report to be accurate and wants to ensure that HHS fully understands how upset the city is at Dynacare’s lack of prompt notification and greater disclosure?

Curiously, the city did not say it would file a complaint against Froedtert Community Health/Workforce Health. Because the city had provided the data to them in secure format, you’d think they would complain that Froedtert failed to ensure that the party they passed it on to maintained it in secure format.  According to the Journal Sentinel,  Froedtert Health Inc. has an ownership interest in Dynacare, but  the management of Dynacare is contracted to a subsidiary of Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings. Froedtert Community Health/Workforce Health is  affiliated with Froedtert Health. So now everyone can pull out the contracts and HIPAA regulations to see how many of these entities have responsibility for, or liability for, the breach.

Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel provides some additional details that suggest this case is about to get even messier:

 The [stolen employee] car contained a flash drive with the personal information of 9,414 city employees, their spouses or domestic partners.

The personal information included the names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and gender of an estimated 6,000 city employees. The flash drive also had the names of more than 3,000 spouses and domestic partners of those workers, although their Social Security numbers were not included, the company said.

However, a domestic partner of a city employee provided the Journal Sentinel with a copy of a letter Dynacare sent to him, informing him that his Social Security number was on the missing flash drive. There is also evidence that people who opted out of the wellness program had their Social Security numbers and other information on the flash drive, Barrett said.

If they opted out, why were their details on the drive? While you can be understandably outraged at Dynacare for the sloppy security practices by its employee, the city itself needs to explain why information on those who opted out were shared with Froedtert Community Health in the first place.WI: Milwaukee to file complaint against Dynacare after security breach

About the author: Dissent