Contra Costa County has sent notification letters to residents whose names were listed in an online report to the Board of Supervisors last year regarding debts owed to the Health Services Department. No action is required by those receiving the notices.
Although no actual medical information was released, the disclosure of names combined with the fact that they received services from Contra Costa Health Services is considered a technical violation of the Confidentiality of Medical Information laws. Protecting patient privacy and personal information is a top priority for Health Services and all of County operations. Steps have already been taken to mitigate the situation, including the mailing of letters on December 2, 2011, to all whose names were listed, removal of the identifying information from the document and the County’s website, posting of relevant information on the Health Services and County websites, and this notice to the media.
The disclosure came to light last week, and was immediately reported to the California Department of Public Health, and an internal investigation was launched. The report in question was attached to a Board of Supervisors agenda On July 27, 2010, and was identified as a “Health Services Write-Off Report.” It was generated by the County’s former Office of Revenue Collection, which was used to collect delinquent payments to various county departments until the Office was dissolved a year ago due to budget cuts. That responsibility now rests with each department. The purpose of the report was to allow the Board of Supervisors to authorize the discharge of accountability for certain health Services accounts that were deemed uncollectible for a variety of reasons. The Board Order with the report remains a public document that can be viewed online, but the patient names have been redacted.
The County Administrator’s Office and Health Services have reviewed their processes to ensure this won’t happen in the future, and remains fully committed to upholding patient privacy.
Any patients receiving letters who have questions or concerns can contact Patient Financial Services at (925) 957-7400 or the Contra Costa Health Services toll-free 24-hour Privacy Hotline at 1-800-659-4611.
Media Contact: Betsy Burkhart, PIO, 925-313-1180