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AOL Chief's Benefits Blunder Also a HIPAA Violation

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 17, 2014

"But then [Armstrong] discloses the information he does have," indicating roughly the time in which these healthcare expenses were incurred, the amount, and that it was for "distressed babies," she says.

No Name? It's Still a Violation
"There's a general misconception that if you don't put a name on it, if you don't say (so and so's) 'distressed baby,' that's not a HIPAA violation. But that's not correct. Because the standard is, can the information be used when it's combined with other information to reasonably identify the individual?"

In this case—a large media company employing journalists—the answer was, of course, yes.

As anyone could quickly surmise, anyone who worked with these parents and their friends, who knew of their suffering, quickly figured out the names of one, if not both, of the two parents whose babies Armstrong referenced.

One went public with her outrage.

Deanna Fei, wife of AOL editor Peter Goodman, said in an article posted on Slate," I take issue with how [Armstrong] reduced my daughter to a 'distressed baby' who cost the company too much money. How he blamed the saving of her life for his decision to scale back employee benefits."

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3 comments on "AOL Chief's Benefits Blunder Also a HIPAA Violation"


Dorinda Sattler (2/20/2014 at 5:39 PM)
HIPAA only applies to covered entities and their business associates. Unless Mr. Armstrong or AOL is either one of these, HIPAA doesn't apply. However, it was still morally and ethically wrong to discuss the information.

sdh (2/20/2014 at 4:00 PM)
It's not a HIPAA violation. It is health information, and I certainly agree that it was a bonehead move to make the comment. However, employee health information held by an employer is not subject to the HIPAA regulations.

Harvey (2/17/2014 at 4:42 PM)
HIPPA violations; everyone but the agencies who are suppose to watch over HIPPA knows of these constant violations.Former Mayor Giuliani violated HIPPA when he tried to come up with an excuse for police shooting an innocent young man. Major League Baseball bought stolen health records and no one says a word about it