Five members of Congress (two Republicans and three Democrats) representing districts from far-flung states (Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas) are co-signers of a bipartisan letter dated December 2, 2011 (the “December 2 Letter”), addressed to the Director of the TRICARE Management Authority. The December 2 Letter was written to express the Congress members’ “deep concerns about a major breach of personally identifiable and protected health information” by TRICARE contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).”
Michael Kline and I have previously blogged about the SAIC PHI breach in four previous postings on this blog series, the most recent posting of which was on November 9, 2011, shortly after TRICARE did an about-face and announced that it was directing SAIC to offer the 4.9 million affected individuals credit monitoring services and assistance.
The December 2 Letter requests “timely and thorough responses” by no later than February 2, 2012 to seventeen startlingly direct and often blame-loaded questions. The questions make it very clear that the authors believe SAIC (and/or TRICARE) should have done more to prevent the SAIC breach and should be doing more to protect affected individuals. Question 9 notes that SAIC offered to provide “victims” (note the word choice) credit monitoring services for a year, but goes on to point out that “such services are useless in protecting against medical identity theft and fraudulent health insurance claims.” It then asks whether victims will also be provided with “newly available medical identity theft monitoring,” and, if not, to explain why such monitoring would not be provided.
The December 2 Letter closes with a brief and scathing chronology of recent SAIC misconduct, after noting that “SAIC has received more than $20 billion in federal contracts over the previous three fiscal years,” and asks: “Why does [TRICARE] continue to contract with SAIC for its data handling and IT needs despite these major performance problems?”
The members of Congress who authored the December 2 Letter hail from both sides of the aisle and from various parts of the country, but a common link seems to be a strong interest in information privacy and security. For example, Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) co-chair the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus and recently focused on Facebook privacy issues. Cliff Stearns (R-Florida) introduced an online privacy bill last spring. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) has commented publicly on the importance of online privacy.
While Rob Andrews (D-New Jersey) has no apparent recent history with respect to information privacy and security, he was the sponsor in 2003 of a bill, which was not ultimately enacted, designed to afford students and parents with private civil remedies for the violation of their privacy rights under the General Education Provisions Act. Moreover, in his continuing role as a member of the House Committee on Armed Services and its Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, he has a deep interest and abiding concern regarding large scale threats to the privacy and security of protected health information of millions of service individuals and their families.