Security Problems Found in Medicare Advantage Plans
Nearly half of insurers who sponsor Medicare Advantage plans experienced security breaches involving Medicare beneficiaries' private health records in the last two years, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. MA plans are offered to beneficiaries as an alternative to traditional Medicare.
Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and other insurers sponsor the plans under government contracts.
According to the GAO report, most of the security breaches occurred when the insurers outsourced health records to other companies for processing. Ninety percent of MA plan sponsors examined by GAO reported outsourcing health records domestically in 2005.
The report recommends that Medicare increase oversight of how the insurers transmit data to other companies and require insurers to report security breaches to the government within 30 days, as is required for traditional Medicare plans.
Jenny Grover, an investigator in the GAO health financing and public health division, said, "We don't see why there is a distinction between the reporting requirements for the different types of Medicare contractors."
CMS officials responded that they have already entered discussions with private insurers on how to improve security of beneficiary health records. According to the AP/Chronicle, the "government does not have direct authority to require companies to report security breaches."
Copies of the report were sent to Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa); Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Committee on Government Reform; and other lawmakers with oversight of Medicare (Perrone, AP/Houston Chronicle, 9/5).
The report is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.