Former UCLA Hospital Employee Indicted for Patient Privacy Breaches
On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles announced that a former UCLA Medical Center employee has been indicted for allegedly accessing the medical records of celebrity patients and selling the information to the National Enquirer and other media outlets, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Lawanda Jackson, a former administrative specialist at the medical center, was indicted on April 9 on one count of illegally obtaining individually identifiable health information for commercial advantage.
The indictment also alleges that Jackson received at least $4,600 from media outlets through checks made out to her husband. Jackson could face up to 10 years in prison if she is convicted.
The indictment did not reveal the names of any of the patients, although actress Farrah Fawcett and her lawyers allege that Jackson disclosed Fawcett's medical information to the National Enquirer and other media outlets.
Jackson was not arrested but is expected to appear at an arraignment scheduled for June 9 in federal court in Los Angeles, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
The charges against Jackson are the most serious allowed under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Reece Hirsch, a partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in San Francisco, said.
Only a handful of defendants have been criminally prosecuted for breaching patients' privacy, the Times reports.
Mrozek said the investigation is ongoing and could charge additional defendants, such as the media outlets involved.
The National Enquirer could face charges of aiding and abetting Jackson and conspiracy, according to Hirsch (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 4/30).
The indictment follows privacy breaches of at least 61 patients at UCLA Medical Center, including Fawcett, pop singer Britney Spears and California first lady Maria Shriver (Mohajer, AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 4/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.