Share this article on:
An alleged healthcare data breach that saw the protected health information of patients of CVS Caremark exposed has resulted in legal action against CVS, Caremark, and its mailing vendor, Fiserv.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Ohio federal court on March 21, 2018, relates to an alleged privacy breach that occurred as a result of an error that affected a July/August 2017 mailing sent to approximately 6,000 patients.
In July 2017, CVS Caremark was contracted to operate as the pharmacy benefits manager for the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program (PhDAP), and under that program, CVS Caremark provides eligible patients with HIV medications and communicates with them about prescriptions.
In July/August 2017, CSV Caremark’s mailing vendor Fiserve sent letters to patients containing their membership cards and information about how they could obtain their HIV medications.
In the lawsuit the complaint alleges HIV-related information was clearly visible through the plastic windows of the envelopes, allowing the information to be viewed by postal service workers, family members, and roommates. It is alleged the mailing resulted in the disclosure of the recipient’s HIV status.
According to Ohio Department of Health policies, information related to HIV should only be sent in non-window envelopes. The mailing would have violated those policies and Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules.
Such a HIPAA breach would need to be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights within 60 days of discovery of the breach; however, the complainant alleges no breach report was submitted to OCR and notifications were not sent to affected individuals – A further breach of HIPAA Rules.
Plaintiffs are seeking punitive and compensatory damages and coverage of their legal costs.
There have been other breaches of HIV information in recent weeks, including a mailing error by a vendor of Aetna. In that case, HIV-related information was visible through the clear plastic windows of envelopes in a mailing to 12,000 individuals. Aetna settled a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of the breach for $17,161,200 and is currently suing its mailing vendor to recover the costs. Aetna was also fined by the New York Attorney General over the breach and settled that case for $1.15 million.