Previously RTP published a letter sent last Wednesday to GOP Caucus members from Connie Ridley of the Office of Legislative Administration. Now RTP has laid our hands on another letter sent from Ms. Ridley the next day to underscore the perfidy being practiced by the administration. As you can see below, Ms. Ridley was pretty hot under the collar – and for good reason.
Ms. Ridley was particularly incensed that what the governor and his lackeys were doing was “a blatant violation of member privacy.”
Ridley also pegged two people at the very heart of the controversy. She laid the blame squarely at the feet of Benefits Administrator Laurie Lee (who of course, could not and did not make this decision without consulting with the governor’s office). She also mentioned F&A general counsel Martha Nichols. RTP is researching these individuals and will tell our readers if we find additional information.
More from Ridley:
“The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) precludes releasing names or “any other personally identifying information” as such information is protected health information. It is the opinion of this office that release of personally identifiable enrollment information would be in violation of federal HIPPA privacy protections.”
Why is this so significant? Well, a former legislator took the trouble to email Rocky Top and point out something most have missed during this whole affair:
“The Governor is treading dangerously close to impeachment. If they released HIPPA protected information, or violated contractual confidentiality, charges can be brought.
While impeachment is a little far-fetched, others have pointed out that if the Feds are so inclined they can not only bring charges, but can fine the crap out of the individuals responsible for the HIPPA violations,
How about that? We may have our very own Richard M. Haslam in the making. Remember that old saying, Governor: “the cover up is always worse than the crime” – especially when it comes to the Feds.
If you don’t believe us, just ask the fuel sales department at Pilot/Flying J.
Letter from Connie Ridley to members of the General Assembly
May 7, 2015
I write to inform you that the Office of Benefits Administration, a division of the Department of Finance and Administration, is releasing further detailed information to the media regarding member health insurance benefits.
This is once again a dramatic and unprecedented departure from policy. As you may remember, I wrote to you in February to inform you that Benefits Administration was departing from their policy to release only the number of legislators and staff on the state health plan. Today, Benefits Administration is going further. They are releasing, both to the Tennessean and the Associated Press, not only the names of legislators on the plan but what type of plan they have, as well as the full cost.
The Office of Legislative Administration views this as a blatant violation of member privacy. It is the long standing policy of the Office of Legislative Administration to release only the number of legislators and staff on the state insurance plan. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) precludes releasing names or “any other personally identifying information” as such information is protected health information. It is the opinion of this office that release of personally identifiable enrollment information would be in violation of federal HIPPA privacy protections.
I would like to emphasize that decision was made in the executive branch at the direction of Benefits Administration Executive Director Laurie Lee. The Office of Legislative Administration did not approve of this release nor did we authorize it. Our policy of releasing only the number of legislators and staff goes back decades. This policy was also the policy of Benefits Administration until the concluding moments of this February’s special session on Insure Tennessee. The policy change was made in consultation with Finance & Administration General Counsel Martha Nichols. The General Assembly’s Office of Legal Services was not consulted.
You will likely see media coverage regarding the release of this information over the coming days. I wanted you to be fully aware of what information was being released and from where the information was coming. Following my signature you will find a detailed list of what information will be provided to the media by Benefits Administration.
If you have any questions regarding this subject or any other please do not hesitate to call my office.