CHA News Article

California Office of Privacy Protection Closes
AG creates privacy enforcement unit

Due to state budget cuts, the California Office of Privacy Protection has been disbanded. The director of that office, Joanne McNabb, has been transferred to the state Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General (AG), which has created a new privacy enforcement unit. The unit also includes six prosecutors who will concentrate on enforcing state and federal privacy laws.

AG Kamala Harris has announced that this new unit will enforce laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private information by individuals, organizations, and the government, including laws relating to health privacy, financial privacy, identity theft and data breaches. On Oct. 1, the AG announced a settlement with Anthem Blue Cross over the insurer’s unlawful printing of Social Security numbers on letters mailed to 33,000 Medicare subscribers. As part of the settlement, Anthem agreed to change its practices, alert subscribers to the unlawful disclosure and offer credit monitoring services, and pay $110,000 to the AG’s new Special Deposit Fund to allow the office to more effectively investigate, prosecute, and educate the public regarding privacy issues.

Hospitals should be aware that the AG is authorized to bring lawsuits seeking money damages under the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Details about these and other health information privacy laws are included in the updated California Health Information Privacy Manual, to be released in November2012. The California Health Information Privacy Manual explains all state and federal health information privacy laws and breach laws that California hospitals must comply with, in an easy-to-understand way. For more information about the manual, visit www.calhospital.org/privacy.

CHA members with questions about health information privacy laws or the California Health Information Privacy Manual may contact Lois Richardson, Vice President, Privacy and Legal Publications/Education, at (916) 552-7611 or lrichardson@calhospital.org.

 

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