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The Topeka, KS-based healthcare company Pearlie Mae’s Compassion and Care LLC and its owners have been fined by the Kansas Attorney General for failing to protect patient and employee records. The owners have agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $8,750.
The HITECH Act gave attorneys general the authority to enforce HIPAA rules and take action against HIPAA-covered entities and business associates that are discovered not to be in compliance with HIPAA regulations. Only a handful of state attorneys general have exercised those rights, with many opting to pursue privacy violations under state laws.
In this case, Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued the civil monetary penalty for violations of the Wayne Owen Act, which is part of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.
Special agents of the Kansas attorney general’s office were assisting the Topeka Police Department execute a search warrant in June 2017 at the home of Ann Marie Kaiser, one of the owners of Pearlie Mae’s Compassion and Care. Kaiser’s home was used as an office location for the company. While at the property, the agents noticed unsecured medical records in open view.
The paperwork included personal information, which includes, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, financial account numbers, which could be used to harm the persons whose information is compromised. Such information could have been viewed by anyone in the property, including individuals unauthorized to access the information.
The civil penalty was issued for the failure to maintain reasonable procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of information held, the failure to exercise reasonable care to protect personal information, and the failure to take reasonable steps to destroy records when they were no longer required – violations of K.S.A. 50-6,139b(b)(l) and K.S.A. 50-6,139b(b)(2).
In addition to covering the financial penalty, Pearlie Mae’s has agreed to update its policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the Wayne Owen Act and will also cover the costs – $1,250 – incurred by the Attorney general office during its investigation.