Groups Accuse DHCS of Improperly Sharing Data on Patients With HIV
On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Lambda Legal and the AIDS Legal Services Alliance sent a letter to officials at the California Department of Health Care Services accusing the agency of violating state privacy laws, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports.
The groups claim that the department provided personal information on thousands of HIV-positive state residents to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that provides HIV/AIDS services.
Elizabeth Gill, ACLU staff attorney, said state health officials sent names, addresses and telephone numbers of about 5,000 HIV-positive residents to the foundation over the past 24 months. The letter said California health officials have committed a "gross affront" to state rules on patient confidentiality.
According to the AP/Mercury News, sharing a person's HIV status without permission or without authorization for public health purposes is a violation of state law that carries a civil fine of up to $25,000 (Leff, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).
Norman Williams, spokesperson for DHCS, said Medi-Cal was participating in a "business associate agreement" with AHF's patient outreach efforts and adhered to all state and federal standards. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Jewett, "California Watch Blog," 9/10).
He added that DHCS did not provide AHF with information about patients' HIV status, physicians, medications or insurance providers. Williams said, "We provided very limited information to AHF about certain beneficiaries, and that was to be used for the purpose of contacting individuals to let them know they were eligible for these additional services" (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).
Although the legal groups did not accuse AHF of wrongdoing, the foundation defended the state's disclosures ("California Watch Blog," 9/10).
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, said his group obtained the information to recruit clients for an outreach, education and case management program targeting low-income California residents with HIV (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 9/9).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.