Unknown Hundreds Affected
THE BILLING AGENCY THAT HANDLES the Los Angeles Fire Department's ambulance billing has notified the FD that one of the agency's employees has "deliberately and maliciously" accessed patient records. The targeted data was the patients' social security numbers and birth dates which were used to file fraudulent tax returns that directed cash refunds to the criminals.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting today:
Federal officials have opened a criminal investigation to determine whether confidential information was obtained illegally on hundreds of patients who rode in Los Angeles Fire Department ambulances, a high-level city lawyer said Wednesday.
The city's ambulance billing duties are handled by Advanced Data Processing Inc., which received nearly $6 million from the Fire Department between June 2011 and Oct. 30, according to City Controller Wendy Greuel. Federal law protects private medical information, Carter said.
In its notification letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, the Fire Department said patient information was used to file fraudulent tax returns as part of a scheme to illegally obtain tax refunds. The department advised the potential victims to call the IRS to determine whether false returns had been filed in their names, and to take steps to protect their credit rating.
The council voted two years ago to take ambulance billing duties away from city employees, despite warnings from union officials that such a move would jeopardize patient information.
"I thought it was wrong to try to privatize ambulance billing for this reason … and here it's come to pass," said Pat McOsker, president of the city firefighters union. "It's shameful, absolutely shameful, that some city contractor, a private company making a profit off this, has people getting access to people's private information."
Read the full article in The Times HERE.