Fresh off the Internal Revenue Service’s confession that it targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, Congress is now looking into a March 2011 IRS search and seizure of as many as 60 million medical records from a California health care provider.
House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders sent a letter to IRS Acting Administrator Daniel Werfel expressing concern that Americans’ health records will be protected as the IRS moves into its ObamaCare role.
Chair emeritus Joe Barton (R-Texas), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations and Health Subcommittees Michael Burgess (R-Texas), and full committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) wrote asked Werfel to outline the IRS’ policies and procedures for requesting and examining protected healthcare information, and keeping it private.
“The Committee on Energy and Commerce is investigating allegations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in the course of executing a search warrant at a California health care provider’s corporate headquarters in March 2011, improperly seized the personal medical records of millions of American citizens in possible violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” they wrote.
The unnamed health care provider is now suing the IRS and 15 unnamed agents in California Superior Court alleging that the agents stole more than 60 million medical records from more than 10 million American patients during a search conducted March 11, 2011, the lawmakers noted.
“The warrant authorizing that search was apparently limited to the financial records of a former employee of the company and in no way authorized the sweeping confiscation of the personal medical records of millions of Americans who had no connection to the initial IRS investigation,” the letter continues.
“In light of these allegations and in anticipation of the IRS’s increased role in implementing health care under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we are writing to request information regarding your agency’s ability to both protect the confidential medical information of millions of Americans and respect the safeguards imposed by HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act].”
According to news reports, the lawsuit alleges that the medical records included “information on psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual and drug treatment, and other sensitive medical treatment data.”
Committee leaders requested that Werfel respond by June 25.