228,000 South Carolinians Medicaid Info Sent to Email

1:35 PM, Apr 19, 2012   |    comments
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Exterior of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services building in Columbia.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A state employee has been fired after the agency says the person transferred 228,000 people's Medicaid information to his own e-mail account.

The employee worked for the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Agency leaders say a performance review last week determined the man, identified by state agents as 36-year-old Christopher Lykes, sent the personal information of 228,435 Medicaid beneficiaries to a Yahoo email account.

The transfer is a violation of policy, agency leaders say. They then contacted the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate.

Lykes, who worked in Columbia, was then terminated. He was arrested Thursday, and now faces multiple counts.

According to the agency, 17 spreadsheets dating back to January 31 of this year were taken. The documents included names, phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, and Medicaid ID numbers.

The agency said no private medical records or financial information was transmitted to anyone else. At this point, health agency officials say they don't know why the employee took the information.

More than 90 percent of the affected beneficiaries live in six counties: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Lexington, Orangeburg and Richland.

"We are disappointed that one of our own would violate that trust and are deeply apologetic for not preventing the inappropriate release of this information," said SCDHHS Director Anthony Keck in a written statement.

The agency is sending personal letters to all affected beneficiaries notifying them of this incident and explaining how to protect their information moving forward. Beneficiaries can also find more information at www.myscmedicaid.org. Those receiving letters should call 1-888-829-6561. Although no health information was released, to address the possibility of identity theft and to give beneficiaries peace of mind, SCDHHS is making available a free year of identity protection services to every affected individual through Experian's ProtectMyID Alert.  This service includes:

• A free credit report;
• Daily credit monitoring to detect any suspicious activity;
• A $1 million identity theft insurance policy.

The agency has hired an external agency to take a look at the risk assessment of its data and IT systems security.

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