3rd HIPAA Criminal Indictment; Another Insider Job

On February 15, Leslie A. Howell, from Oklahoma City, OK, was indicted for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 as part of an identity theft scheme.

“From June to August 2007, Howell disclosed “personally identifiable health information‚Äù to two people, knowing they would use it to commit “access device fraud‚Äù and identity theft, according to the indictment. Bob Troester, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, said the indictment was the first in the district for violating the medical privacy law. Troester said the records came from a counseling center. He declined to say which one. Howell is accused of providing more than 100 patient files to two people whom Troester declined to identify. If convicted, Howell faces as many as 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. Howell has not been arraigned.”

It would seem to point to poor controls and safeguards within the counseling center.
I believe incidents such as this should be automatic triggers for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to perform a HIPAA compliance audit.
This is the third case I know of where HIPAA has been used to pursue criminal charges. I have blogged about the other instances several times, such as here and here.
Thanks, Alec, for sending me this story! 🙂

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