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release of patient information

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#1
What is the name of your state? California

I am a CDCR inmate currently housed in a treatment program in Los Angeles finishing out the remainder of my prison term. I am HIV positive and
I am distributed medication in the Wellness Center of this Walden House Health Right 360 program located in Los Angeles. Recently I was approach by another inmate that told me that the employee who distributes our medication told him that the medication I'm taking "...is AIDS medication." and furthermore the inmate was able to tell me the name of the medication I take. I am a transgendered woman housed in a mens facility that houses 200 people. I already deal with being alienated. I feel that the disclosure of my medical information to one of my peers further alienated me from this community that I am forced to be in. I strongly believe what the inmate told me because 1.) The way the Wellness center is set up prevents anyone from having access to any of my medical information ( medication, diagnosis etc) and 2.) The inmate is willing to be recognized as a witness and let it be known that this employee told him directly about my medical information.

My questions are: 1.) Is this a HIPAA violation?
2.) Do I have a case?
3.) Do I file a claim against CDCR (California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation), or Walden House Health ight 360 (residential treatment program funded by CDCR), or the employee himself ?
4.) What violation and/or malpractice should I sue for and what consequences should I request?
5.) How much can I potentially be awarded?

This whole ordeal has caused me great mental anguish and paranoia. And I've basically been shunned away from the community due to his negligence in keeping my medical information private and confidential. There is no reason that my medical information should have been mentioned to any of my peers and I feel that this facility as well as CDCR should be held accountable for failing to train it's employees about confidentiality and HIPAA Rights for residents.
 


#2
My questions are: 1.) Is this a HIPAA violation?
It may well have been a HIPAA violation. It matters whether the entity for which the person who made disclosure work is a "covered entity." It probably is, as most healthcare providers are, but not all are covered entities so that would be important to determine. If it is a covered entity, then the circumstances of the disclosure matter. That said, I am having trouble picturing a circumstance where disclosure to another inmate would be a permitted disclosure under HIPAA.

2.) Do I have a case?
Your sole remedy for a HIPAA violation is to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HIPAA does not provide a private right of action for HIPAA violations, which in more plain English means you cannot sue for money damages as a result of a HIPAA violation. HHS will review your complaint and if it believes there was a significant violation it can take enforcement action against the covered entity, including hitting it with a large fine. As the rest of your questions are about filing a possible lawsuit and no lawsuit is possible, I won't go into that.

It is possible that the disclosure might give rise to some negligence or other tort claim under California state law, however. I don't practice in California and cannot say whether you might have something to pursue in state court over this. You'd want to review that with a California personal injury lawyer.
 
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