TennCare provider loses patient information on thousands

September 12, 2007

By Erica Estep


There are 67,000 TennCare enrollees at risk of identity theft after a courier service lost their personal information.

The lost information includes names, Social Security Numbers, birthdays and addresses.

On September 4, Americhoice Inc., a TennCare provider, sent a letter to all 67,000 enrollees across the state of warning them about what happened.

Customers in all 18 East Tennessee counties are affected.

Ellen Schellmer's eight-year-old son's information was lost. "I think they are very irresponsible and I wonder how they'd feel if it were them?"

Schellmer's concerned her son's identity could be stolen. "In a few years, he's eligible for credit cards, all kinds of credit, people could steal his identity, ruin his credit, ruin his life."

According to AmeriChoice, on July 19 a single CD was sent overnight by UPS from its office in Nashville to Knoxville. But it didn't make it.

"We regret that this occurred, certainly, and we do take the privacy and security of our member's personal information very seriously. And we have taken steps that we believe will prevent this kind of occurrence from happening again," AmeriChoice Vice President of Public Relations Steven Matthews explains.

Matthews says all AmeriChoice employees have been re-trained and their policies gone over. He admits a new employee did not follow policy.

"The data should not have been put on a CD in an un-encrypted form. It should have been transmitted either in an encrypted form or via a secure email system. That's normally how it was done," Matthews says.

He also says the CD didn't contain any medical or health information.

AmeriChoice is offering a free one-year identity theft protection service, but some say that's not enough.

"I'm pretty disgusted. I think they need to come up with a better idea than one year of identity theft," Ellen Schellmer says.

AmeriChoice says its has no reason to believe the information has fallen into the wrong hands or been mis-used.

To sign up for the free ID theft protection you must call AmeriChoice at 1-800-690-1606.

UPS spokesperson Lynnette Mcintire says the company did lose the package, but conducted a very exhaustive search for it. She says UPS sends 15 million packages a day and losing one is rare.

Mcinitire adds that the CD was sent in a regular envelope, not a CD packing box. She says UPS strongly recommends not sending any un-encrypted data in a package. She also suggests sending sensitive items like CDs in special packing boxes.

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