Mailing error discloses 'limited' personal info of 3,000 Centegra patients

Third-party vendor's error on automatic mail filing misdirected bills

Medical bills detailing "limited" personal information of 3,000 Centegra Health System patients recently were sent to the wrong addresses because of a mailroom error at a third-party contractor, a Centegra spokeswoman said.

The mailing error happened during routine maintenance Nov. 2 at MedAssets, a Georgia-based vendor that Centegra contracts.

A setting on automatic mail filing equipment accidentally was changed and caused two Centegra billing statements to be filed into one envelope, spokeswoman Michelle Green said.

The error affected hospital statements with Centegra letterhead sent between Nov. 2 and Nov. 6. MedAssets told Centegra about the error Nov. 10, and the two immediately worked to ensure patient privacy was protected, Green said.

In total, 6,000 Centegra patients were affected by the error. Half of the patients received two billing statements detailing their own hospital service, as well as another patients' hospital service. So far, Centegra doesn't think any fraudulent activity has happened with the misdirected bills, Green said.

The bills that were sent erroneously contained a patient's name, address, account number, original account balance, third-party payment, billing discounts and adjustments, and the amount owed. Hospital service dates, a summary of services provided and related charges also were included on the bills.

A patient's Social Security number, date of birth and diagnosis information were not detailed on the bills sent to the wrong homes, Green said.

"Centegra Health System and MedAssets apologize for this error and are committed to fully protecting patient privacy," Green said. "Centegra is working closely with MedAssets to ensure it has taken every step necessary to address the incident."

Since discovering the error, the third-party vendor has fixed its mailing equipment and performed various "quality control procedures" that have assured Centegra the error is fixed, Green said.

A spokesperson with MedAssets did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

Centegra and MedAssets are telling patients who have contacted them about receiving a misdirected bill to either destroy or return the bill. Both groups also are providing all 6,000 patients with complimentary one-year credit monitoring to detect misuse of their personal information.

The service also provides identity theft protection. Patients who have questions about the bills or the credit monitoring service should call 815-759-4567.

Before the mailing error happened, Centegra started developing a new consolidated billing system for hospital and physician services to make payment easier for patients, Green said. The service, Centegra One Bill, means patients will receive one statement and one customer service line for most billed services.

Once the consolidated system launches in a few weeks, MedAssets no longer will handle patient billing but still will be contracted for insurance company billing, Green said. A separate, undisclosed vendor will handle the new patient billing system.