Medical Debt Collection Cases Raise Health Data Privacy Concerns

June 24, 2014 in News

Medical debt collection cases are raising new privacy concerns, the Argus Leader reports.

When small claims and civil court cases are filed to collect medical debts, a variety of patient data — including a list of medical procedures performed — becomes public record.

According to the Leader, collections agencies are not required to comply with HIPAA privacy rules.

In South Dakota, electronic filing has made such information widely accessible at public terminals in courthouses. Further, the state by the end of the year will allow the public to access case records online. However, residents will not be able to search online by name only.

S.D. Collections Agency Pushes for More Protections

About a month ago, AAA Collections, a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based collection agency that handles Sanford Health cases, asked that patients’ medical data be sealed in new case filings.

AAA Collections General Counsel Sara Greff Dannen said, “Soon, South Dakota Courts will transition to electronic filing. To respond to the electronic accessibility to court records, AAA Collections has updated its practices to add further protections for the benefit of its clients and their customers.”

Sanford Health accepted AAA’s recommendation to make patients’ medical information available only to AAA and the individual being sued. However, other South Dakota collection agencies have not yet made such changes, according to the Leader (Hult, Argus Leader, 6/21).

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