On February 15, 2017, Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc. (“Horizon”) agreed to pay New Jersey authorities $1.1 million to resolve alleged HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule violations based on the November 2013 theft of two unencrypted laptops. The stolen laptops compromised the privacy of 687,838 New Jersey policyholders. This settlement comes on the heels of the Third Circuit reversing the dismissal of a putative class action filed against Horizon based on the same laptop incident.
After acknowledging that vendor moving company employees may have stolen the laptops, the Complaint recounts numerous alleged HIPAA violations. Complaint ¶ 17, 43. Horizon ultimately agreed by way of its consent judgment to a corrective action plan (“CAP”) and third-party audit – with $150,000 of the consent judgment as a “suspended penalty” that would be automatically vacated if the CAP was in material compliance two-years after entry of the judgment.
This costly Horizon incident provides several takeaways that never get old – encrypt all laptops and use an IT asset management plan that ensures the IT team can track all laptops with network access. Most importantly, unlike Horizon never make any exceptions. Complaint ¶ 23 (“As a result of the procurement of the MacBooks outside of Horizon BCBSNJ’s established process, certain MacBooks were not configured with approved encryption, data deletion and other software required by corporate policy.”).