For more than a year Prime Healthcare Services, which owns 14 hospitals in California, has been the subject of state and federal investigation into potentially fraudulent billing with Medicare and Medi-Cal. Journalists at California Watch have filed numerous stories and even done their own analysis of 50 million Medicare records about Prime’s billing practices.
But this post is not about Medicare fraud.
Instead, it’s about unapproved release of one patient’s medical records, as Mike Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times explained in his column today:
Of all the personal information that you might want to keep private, your medical records are the most important. That’s why federal and state laws carry stiff penalties, up to and including jail time, for healthcare providers who let such data loose into the wild.
So you should be aghast at how free and easy Prime Healthcare Services and two executives at Prime-owned Shasta Regional Medical Center have been with the medical chart of a patient named Darlene Courtois. They showed the entire chart to an editor of her hometown newspaper, and Prime’s corporate office divulged some of her medical examination results to me (though I didn’t ask for them). They didn’t have her permission for those disclosures, her daughter says.