Aetna inadvertently included more than 18,000 students' Social Security numbers on health insurance brochures the insurer mailed out across the country.
A University of Virginia outdated computer program provided the Social Security numbers and other information to Aetna, which offers health plans for the university's students, reported the school newspaper The Cavalier Daily.
Aetna used the information to send open-enrollment brochures to 18,700 University of Virginia students through a third-party mail vendor. The Social Security numbers appeared on the brochures' address levels just above the students' names, the Daily Progress reported.
Although Aetna's "standard protocol" is to review samples of a mailing before it goes out, "that procedure was not followed [by the vendor] in this circumstance," Spokeswoman Cynthia Michener told The Cavalier Daily. "However, this mail vendor does business for Aetna, and as such, we share the responsibility for this mailing."
Michener added that Aetna is reviewing its protocols to help prevent similar mistakes don't occur again. "We also are instituting additional internal, Aetna protocols to detect and purge unnecessary data fields from files received from student health customers," she said.
Aetna also is working with the University of Virginia to notify the affected students. "We are trying to do the right thing," Michener said.