According to allegations raised in a recently filed class action lawsuit, CVS accidentally revealed the HIV status involving thousands of individuals during a mailing last summer.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by unidentified plaintiffs last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, against CVS Health Corporation, CareMark, LLC, and Eiserv, Inc.
Plaintiffs indicate that CVS mailed out about 6,000 letters in late July 2017 and early August 2017, notifying patients about their HIV status under contract with the Ohio Drug Assistance Program (OhDAP). The letters were mailed to participants in the program, regardless of whether they were CVS customers. However, the letters had two clear see-through “windows”, one of which revealed the patient’s HIV status.
“This reference to the recipient’s HIV status was plainly visible through the glassine window,” the lawsuit notes. “The designation ‘HIV’ in the program identification number was not required by the Ohio Department of Health, but rather was created by CVS.”
The lawsuit seeks class action status to represent individuals who had their HIV status revealed, alleging that CVS made no effort to test or review how the letters were being mailed, since a review would have clearly shown that the identification number with “HIV” next to it was prominently visible.
The complaint notes that it is unlawful to reveal a patient’s HIV status publicly.
The class action lawsuit is almost identical to one filed against Aetna in August 2017, after the insurance company sent similar notifications to 12,000 customers through a third-party vendor.
In January, Aetna reached a $17 million settlement agreement (PDF) to resolve those cases, just months after the complaint was filed. The settlement also included an Immediate Relief Program paid for by Aetna, which involved up to three counseling sessions for class members and their families, and additional counseling opportunities, and reimbursements for any emergency out-of-pocket costs incurred by plaintiffs as a result of the disclosure.
The CVS class action lawsuit presents claims for unauthorized, unprivileged disclosure to a third-party of nonpublic medical information and violation of Ohio law.