By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Despite an ongoing criminal investigation by federal and local authorities, officials from Connecticut’s health insurance exchange said Thursday they believe a call center employee mistakenly left behind a backpack containing clients’ personal information and had no intent to misuse the information.
“It was a very bad decision,” Virginia Lamb, Access Health CT’s legal counsel, told members of the health insurance exchange’s board of directors. “But so far, at least, we have not seen evidence of criminality. The investigation is ongoing. It appears, at this time, that it is a mistake and something we’re going to have to dive into even more deeply. But this was not a massive IT security breach.”
An Access Health CT call center worker employed by a vendor, Maximus, has said he mistakenly left a backpack outside a deli on June 6 while waiting for a ride. The backpack, which was eventually turned in to a Republican state representative’s Hartford office, contained four notepads with 413 handwritten notes, including names, Social Security numbers and birthdates.
The Internal Revenue Service and the Hartford Police Department are investigating.
Peter Van Loon, chief operating officer at the health insurance exchange, said letters were sent to 395 affected clients informing them of available credit monitoring and other protections. He said 44 people have responded so far.
Kevin Counihan, Access Health CT’s CEO, called the security breach “a very unfortunate circumstance.”
The breach comes as the exchange continues to receive strong interest from people seeking health insurance. Van Loon said the call center is still receiving 4,000 to 5,000 calls a day even though the first open enrollment period ended on March 31. To date, about 240,000 individuals have enrolled through the marketplace. That figure includes 160,000 in government-funded Medicaid plans and 80,000 in private plans.
People are able to still enroll if they’ve had a “qualifying life event,” such as losing their employer health coverage or moving into the state.
Access Health CT is gearing up for the next open enrollment period for coverage starting in 2015. That period is expected to run from Nov. 15 through Feb. 15. Counihan said a fourth insurance carrier, United Healthcare Services Inc., has agreed to provide individual coverage. United will join Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, HealthyCT and Connecticare. Counihan said a fifth carrier is likely to participate in 2015 and a sixth is interested in offering plans beginning in 2016.
Consumers that sign up for coverage during the next enrollment period will likely find more choices from the carriers. The number of plan designs is expected to jump from 75 in the last period to 171 or possibly more by Nov. 15.
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