First HIPAA Conviction

symtym links to the first ever conviction under the new HIPAA laws.

…age 42, of SeaTac, Washington pleaded guilty today in federal court in Seattle to wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information for economic gain. This is the first criminal conviction in the United States under the health information privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which became effective in April, 2003. Those provisions made it illegal to wrongfully disclose personally identifiable health information.
As set forth in the Plea Agreement, (criminal) admitted that he obtained a cancer patient’s name, date of birth and social security number while (criminal) was employed at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and that he disclosed that information to get four credit cards in the patient’s name.

The case looks open and shut, and the defendant plead guilty, so that takes care of the “did he do it” thing.

The part of this that bothers me is that what he did was plain old identity theft, which is a crime all its own, and is covered by a lot of laws having nothing to do with medicine. My legally-uneducated mind thinks HIPAA was used because it is much more ‘guilty until proven innocent’ than a more conventional criminal charge.

I could be wrong, and I really hope I am, but this HIPAA law was written by and for lawyers, and patients and their healers are second-thoughts.

Oh, and join me in begging Symtym to change the colors on his blog (or do what I do, use Opera and turn off the style sheet, or use Firefox and apply your own style sheet). That white and purple on black is hard to read.

Updated to include the facts of the case, at the behest of Dr. Winters, whose blog is still malfunctioning.


  1. Unintended consequences always follow all legislation, statutes and regulations. HIPAA is just the new theory of the crime on the block. I suspect it has long legs.

    Regarding symtym–its pure XHTML/CSS, my own CSS, and I use Firefox and TopStyle. Technically the color is 99e–which makes it a shade of blue. ;)

    Perhaps (eventually) with larger traffic I’ll have some professional skinning done–but for now I’ll keep the uniqueness. But I do like your 999 background…

  2. This law is so much garbage minus the can. My son who is under age for everything, including being out past 10:30 p.m., has the ‘right’ to sign off on medical procedures he’s never heard of, but I..his mother, insurance fee paying parent, can’t get a copy of him immunizations without his signature! What horse &%#! is this?

    Now that the poor cancer patient’s identity is out there in the computer databases of four MORE companies who are in turn selling this persons information, there will most likely be other accounts taken out by ‘her/him’ after the death!

    It’s like passing yet another gun law in the name of ‘protecting the children’. Drive by shootings are illegal everywhere because of many laws that society has already got on the books, yet they think we need one specific to that act? Just prosecute the guilty and slam them hard. THAT will lower the rates of crime. History agrees.