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Monday, February 11, 2008

Can We Have A Little HIPAA Over Here?

by capper

Last week CRG made a almost-noticed breakthrough. They introduced a data base that was to show all of the contracts that government has with various agencies. Their goal, apparently, was to increase transparency in government. While I have issues with CRG, I find this to be an admirable goal. After all, if there was more transparency in government, perhaps we wouldn't be in Iraq, or dealing with a sagging economy, while companies like Halliburton and Blackwater get sweetheart deals.

Unfortunately for CRG, the only goverment agency to respond so far was Milwaukee County. And now it turns out, the County got it wrong. They did not screen the information they gave CRG, and CRG did not double check it, and now, the personal and private information of individuals has been released to the public. Anyone who needed a psychiatric evaluation, whether for a criminal hearing, a commitment hearing, or for the purposes of granting guardianship for a person unable to take care of themselves, their names and case numbers were available for all to see.

This is of course in direct violation of HIPAA and the right to privacy that is federally protected.

It appears that Walker's acting director of the Department of Administration, didn't bother checking the law, or running this past the Clerk of Circuit Courts, John Barrett. Instead, she just went ahead and released this information. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Walker is mum on the subject.

To make the matter worse, when the error was discovered last Friday, CRG said they would. However, it was still up as late as Sunday night. I guess they were too busy over the weekend helping Walker with his campaign appearance (more on that on another day).

This is akin to the repeated failures of the State of Wisconsin, who on three separate occassions allowed the Social Security numbers of people to be printed on the labels of mailings. Of course, when that happened, the right didn't take long from blaming bureaucrats to blaming Governor Jim Doyle.

However, when Scott Walker's administration commits the same offense, the most we see is an "oops".

Owen Robinson, the only person on the right to even acknowledge this story, when challenged on the Doyle vs. Walker aspect said:
It depends on what action, if any, is taken. In the case of the state, we have seen repeated gaffes with the release of personal information. Yet, we haven’t seen any positive action taken to correct it. This indicates an issue with the leadership.

In this case, I believe this is the first case of such a gaffe (please correct me if I’m wrong). If it remains an anomaly, then it’s just an “oops.” If it happens again and Walker does not take more stern corrective action, then Walker shares the blame.

I can accept mistakes. We’re human and they happen. But the lack of management tans my hide.

Well, Owen, you better have Wendy drive you to the tannery, because this isn't the first time Walker and his sidekick, Archer, have come up on the wrong side of the law.

It is time for a change. The taxpayers of Milwaukee County are already having to pay for the multiple lawsuits that have been lost by David Clarke. We don't to keep paying for Walker's ineptitude as well. To support Lena Taylor, just go to this site.

UPDATE: The paper is now reporting that nearly seven thousand violations of confidentiality laws were posted for six days. They now have been removed. Scott Walker says, "Huh," and Cynthia Archer says, "I can't find the wisdom in them doing what we wanted them to do."

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