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Medical Information CD of Empire Blue Members, Missing

One of the U.S.' largest health insurance companies, WellPoint seems to have lost a CD containing customers' medical and other private information. The Empire Blue Cross and Blue Sheriff unit of New York-based WellPoint has started notifying its 75,000 members. The disc held the names, numbers identifying health plans, medical service description of the members and Social Security numbers, reported The New York Times. The lost data on health plan numbers and medical service details date four years back to 2003. Empire has been informing the affected customers via e-mail since March 10, 2007.

The CD missing since January was found on March 14 2007, said an Empire spokeswoman Lisa Greiner. Empire did not disclose where it found the CD or whether there had been any breach to patients' confidentiality. Forbes published this on March 14, 2007.

Empire Blue has decided to give 12 months' free credit to those health plan members who think they might become victims of identity theft. Equifax Credit Watch would monitor this facility.

A Magellan subcontractor shipped the information to Magellan but before doing that he removed the coding and passwords that protected the information privacy, said Empire spokeswoman Greiner on March 13, 2007, reported News.com.

Janlori Goldman, director of the Health Privacy Center, an NGO in Washington described the error as a "gross breach of privacy". She said a federal privacy law required insurance companies to ensure that their contractors adopt necessary security measures. News.com published this on March 14, 2007.

Empire said letters would reach its members, having data on the disc, by this weekend. The letter would give the contact information and the procedure to get in touch with Equifax. However, for those who want to know earlier about their data loss could use the toll free number (800) 293-3433.

Magellan announced that it had now stopped information dispatch on compact discs, according to Magellan spokeswoman, Erin Somers. She said the data loss happened because both Magellan and Health Data Management Solutions erred in their judgments.

Greiner said Empire was not sure if the disc was lost or stolen but search was on.

Related article: Medical Center Targeted By Dismissal Spam Attack

» SPAMfighter News - 3/29/2007

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