Premera cyberattack confirms patient privacy concerns

By Randi Becker (Editor: State Sen. Randi Becker issued the following statement March 17 in reaction to an announcement by Premera Blue Cross that it was the victim of a cyberattack that may have exposed millions of customer records with personal information to Internet hackers. The medical insurer said the attack started in May 2014 but wasn't discovered until Jan. 29 this year.) Today, as chair of the Senate Health Care Committee,-áI was notified by phone that Premera GÇô and its members GÇô have been victims of a cyberattack. Unfortunately, this underscores my longstanding concerns related to patient privacy and access to medical data. Last year I was the lone legislator critical of a proposed bill that would have built an all-payer claims database GÇô essentially a giant virtual vault that houses the healthcare claims and personal information for nearly every person in Washington.-áWhile I appreciate how consumers could benefit from the healthcare pricing and quality information that could be extracted from this medical database,-áI was concerned that a patient's personal information could also be breached all too easily.-á Just a month ago, another large insurance carrier was hit with a massive data breach. It's no wonder, as cybersecurity experts estimate medical information is worth 10 times more money on the black market than credit card numbers. Any company or facility that stores medical records is a target for these cybercriminals. It's time we recognize that, especially when we are enacting legislation that involve people's private medical histories. This year I proposed a new bill that would-ácreate an all-payer claims database and would safeguard patients' medical and personal information.-áCritics of my approach have complained that the proposed security measures would make it more difficult to pull data out. To those folks, I would say: Good! Jumping through a few more hoops to keep the personal information of Washington residents safer is something we should support, not oppose. Premera is working with the FBI and following its instructions so closely, we should all be thankful for that. This could happen to any insurance carrier or medical facility. I'm hopeful that going forward, we will take these lessons learned the hard way and do all we can to protect patient privacy.
State Sen. Randi Becker is a Republican from Eatonville. Her Second District constituency includes south Pierce County.


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