Massive data loss at HCA

Thieves recently stole 10 computers from an HCA regional office, potentially compromising the personal data of thousands of Medicare and Medicaid patients in eight states. The personal information of thousands of employees and physicians who tended to patients is also at stake, authorities said last week. Authorities suspect the crime is a part of a series of computer thefts by people looking to make money from hardware, not data. HCA did not disclose where or when the thefts took place.

HCA officials said that the theft affects Medicare and Medicaid patients who stayed in HCA hospitals in Kansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington between 1996 and 2006 and did not pay their co-pays or deductibles, resulting in an overdue account (the computers contained data required for financial reports to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). Between 15,000 and 18,000 patient records are vulnerable. The records contain names and Social Security numbers but no birth dates or home addresses. They also contained the names and numbers of roughly 7,000 employees and physicians in Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana.

Maybe it isn't much of a consolation for victims, but they aren't alone. A new survey says that 81 percent of U.S. firms lost laptops with sensitive data in the past year.

For more on the theft:
- read this Wichita Eagle article