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Report says Privacy Breaches Rampant in Healthcare Sector

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The Government Accounting Office (GAO) recently released a report that found that over 40 percent of federal health insurance contractors and state Medicaid agencies experienced a privacy breach related to personal health information in the past two years. The report, which is detailed in the September 5, 2006 edition of Information Week magazine, looked at how private firms, government agencies, and state Medicaid agencies administer Medicare, Medicaid, and the Defense Department's TRICARE program. The GAO report found that contractors and agencies access the medical records of more than 100 million Americans. Industry experts are displeased with the GAO findings. "These findings certainly don't inspire much confidence that sensitive personal information is being adequately protected," says Beth Givens at Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "That's a shocking finding. It's not only the number of breaches but the sensitivity of the information breached." GAO suggests that the same privacy breach notification rules be applied to TRICARE and Medicare contractors. Outsourcing of services-related personal health information is common with over 90 percent of Medicare contractors and 63 percent of Medicaid agencies outsourcing last year, according to the report.

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