Computer error releases health care information

Coventry Health Care computer error caused the unintentional release of information.

UM System officials notified about 750 faculty and staff members Friday that their health care information was mailed to incorrect addresses earlier this month.

Coventry Health Care, which administers the system's medical benefits plans, said in a news release a computer malfunction was the cause of the error. The program that prints the names and addresses on the envelopes aligned the names with the wrong address.

"We discovered that the computer error occurred between January 6th and 10th, and upon learning of the error, we took immediate corrective actions to address this error," said Roman Kulich, President and CEO of Coventry Health Care/GHP in St. Louis in a news release. "After correcting the error, we began working with officials to notify those affected. In addition, we implemented new system safeguards to prevent this type of error from happening again."

The mailing error only affected employees and their families receiving Choice Health Care Program benefits. No participants in the Catastrophic Medical Program or Retiree Indemnity Medical Program were affected.

"We have taken the error very seriously," said Kelley Stuck, associate vice president of the UM system. "Any time employee information is released incorrectly we are concerned."

Benefit statements, health services letters and new ID cards were mailed to the wrong person due to the error. This revealed personal information such as name, member number and birth date.

Unlike a mailing error made last year by the UM system's Internal Revenue Service that released several students' social security numbers by mistake, no social security numbers were released. These two incidents were not related.

"We are relieved that no social security numbers were released," Stuck said.

After an employee brought the problem to university officials' attention Jan. 14, steps were taken to correct the mistake. Coventry was contacted and is fully cooperating with the system to correct the problem, according to the release.

"We have asked Coventry to take steps to attempt to recover the misdirected mail, and we have provided participants affected by this error with steps they can take to protect themselves," Stuck said in the release.

Stuck advises all employees to treat the incorrectly mailed information like credit card information.

"If a member is concerned, they may want to ask their provider that if their member card is shown that a driver's license also be shown with it," Stuck said. "If they are concerned that their membership card is being used improperly, they should contact Coventry's offices or the university's Faculty and Staff Benefits Office. If everyone is alert, they will be more likely to notice something is wrong."

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