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Government privacy breach affects nearly 50,000

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Submitted by the office of Bonnie Lowenthal

During an Assembly floor session on Tuesday, February 16, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal gathered her colleagues’ signatures in a letter demanding that the Department of
Health Care Services offer more help to thousands of older adults whose credit was put at risk when state health officials printed Social Security numbers on the envelopes of a mass mailing list. The security breach was related to a February 1st letter from the Department of Health Care Services.

The letter was sent to 49,000 people who receive “adult day health care services,” a program that provides services to people who might otherwise need nursing home care. The average age of a recipient is 78, and many have dementia, are recovering from a stroke, or face other problems.

A short time later, those same people received another letter, telling them their Social Security numbers had been printed on the outside of the first envelopes, and urging them to contact a credit reporting agency.

“This is not a tech-savvy population,” said Lowenthal. “You can’t just say to them, ‘Something scary happened that’s not your fault, so now you need to do something confusing to solve the problem.’ This is an inexcusable foul up and we have to make it right.”

Lowenthal, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care and serves on the Assembly Oversight and Accountability Committee, also called for changes in the department’s practices.

Lowenthal said her office was ready to help constituents who received the letters contact credit agencies to protect against identity fraud. “This never should have happened, and we have to make sure it never happens again,” said Lowenthal. “In the meantime, my office is ready to help anyone who’s confused by the process of alerting credit agencies of the possible breach.”

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Government privacy breach affects nearly 50,000