A June 2011 SC Magazine article reports that hundreds of thousands of workers who applied for California workers compensation benefits had their personal information mistakenly exposed online. Southern California Medical-Legal Consultants (SCMLC), a company that collects workers compensation insurance funds for medical providers, kept the Worker names and Social Security numbers in their database for internal purposes. Unfortunately this kind of unauthorized publication of computer-stored, confidential, personal information happens with relative frequency, either as a result of intentional hacking, unintentional human or computer error. Government agencies, hospitals, universities, banks and even NASA have all been compromised at one time or another.
Workers comp law in Florida
Workers currently receiving workers compensation benefits should know that pursuant to Florida Statute 119.071, certain information maintained by state agencies are exempt from public disclosure and deemed confidential. This includes Worker Social Security numbers and medical and financial information. In accordance with the statutory requirement, the Florida Division of Worker Compensation protects the Social Security numbers and medical and financial information of injured workers obtained in the performance of the agency’s statutory responsibilities.
Florida Statute Section 119.071(4) (d) also protects the home addresses and telephone numbers for a limited number of workers such as law enforcement personnel and other public employees.
Further, the disclosure of personal, medical and health information is protected by federal law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which regulates the use and transfer of personal health information. HIPAA applies to medical records maintained by health care providers, health plans and other medical facilities that conduct certain transactions electronically. Individuals who file workers comp claims should be careful to only authorize release of their personal information as is required for the adjudication of their claim. Workers should guard their confidential information and consult with their workers compensation attorney before releasing any personal information.