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AOL Chief's Benefits Blunder Also a HIPAA Violation

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 17, 2014

Another woman, who may be the mother of the other baby Armstrong referred to, is now in a new job and known to many of her co-workers. She tells me she is not ready to go public with her story because she is "in negotiations for a settlement." Her baby's "medical bills exceeded $2 million" because of a lengthy hospitalization after an accident.

Anger among employees has raged across the country. Employees were already stressed by AOL's management moves. It laid off hundreds of employees and closed down dozens of Patch sites in January during the company's latest reorganization.

A 'Broader Lesson'
Knutson, former house counsel and compliance officer for Palomar Health, a two-hospital system north of San Diego and now in private practice, says there's a "broader lesson" for anyone in healthcare who even thinks about disclosing protected information outside the rules.

HIPAA does allow personal health information disclosure without patient consent in certain very specific cases, for example, when hospitals need to report adverse events or disease outbreaks to government agencies such as municipal health departments or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

"But in the AOL case, or even in a case where an organization is trying to defend itself against accusations, that's not sufficient justification," Knutson says.

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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