COLUMBIA (WACH) ?? The agency that manages South Carolina's Medicaid program says nearly 230,000 recipient records have been compromised.
During an agency performance review, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (SCDHHS) discovered last week that an employee working within the Medicaid program inappropriately transferred personal information of 228,435 Medicaid beneficiaries to his personal email account, constituting a violation of agency policy.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said Thursday that 36-year-old Christopher Lykes has been arrested and charged with medically indigent act confidentiality violation and disclosure of confidential information. Lykes is booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Click here to read the warrants from SLED.
The department discovered the transfers on Tuesday, April 10 and immediately contacted SLED to investigate the incident and also informed other state and federal agencies. Lykes, who worked in Columbia, was terminated last week. It is not yet known why he sent the information to his personal email account but law enforcement is actively investigating.
The transferred information was contained in 17 spreadsheets dating back to January 31, and included: names, phone numbers, addresses, birth dates and Medicaid ID numbers. Importantly, no private medical records or financial information was transmitted.
In more than 22,000 of the cases, Medicare numbers, which contain Social Security numbers, were also linked to beneficiaries?? names. More than 90% of the affected beneficiaries live in six counties: Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Lexington, Orangeburg and Richland.
According to the South Carolina State House website, as recently as 2011, Lykes was a member of the South Carolina Democratic Party's Executive Committee, representing Lexington County. However, a party official tells WACH Fox that in March, Lykes was not re-elected to that post, and since last month has had no affiliation with the Executive Committee. WACH Fox left a message with Lexington County Democratic Party chair Kathy Hensley, asking if Lykes still had a role in the county party. That message has not yet been returned.
Tech expert Stephen Miano said although health information was not released, personal info could be very valuable to identity thieves.
"I don't really think identity thieves want to know if you have amedical condition, when you last saw the doctor. The real juicy information in here is the fact that they took personal information. This could have life long repurcussions. Someone may have your social security number. You can't change your birthdate. This is information you can't easily change."
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 informationat.
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 a credit reporting service, which includes a free credit report Daily credit monitoring to detect any suspicious activity, and a $1 million identity theft insurance policy.
SCDHHS has created a website to answer questions from beneficiaries and help them enroll in the free protection services. SCDHHS has established a toll-free call center at 888-829-6561 for affected Medicaid beneficiaries.