Texas health department fires employee for HIPAA violations, then mails her a box of 100 clients' private information

After allegedly not ensuring clients' HIPAA-covered information was properly secured for nine years, Tracy Ryans was fired from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Then the  department mailed her boxes containing state assistance applications with hundreds of people's Social Security numbers, green card certificates, billing statements, check stubs and copies of driver's licenses, The Texas Tribune reports.

Now, Ms. Ryans, who denies the agency's allegations, said it appears the agency did exactly what it accused her of.

"I didn't know what to do with it," Ms. Ryans told The Texas Tribune of the boxes. "The only thing that was going through my mind was, 'This is a violation,' because I don't know what to do with this stuff."

In fact, neither of the two boxes Ms. Ryans received contained any of her belongings. One of the boxes stored items from the desk she shared with other workers, although she didn't own any of the items, and the other held benefit applications alongside copies of personal information dated April 13 — days after March 29, when Ms. Ryans was terminated.

Fearing HHSC would claim she took the files, Ms. Ryans contacted the Texas State Employees Union, who helped her return the files.

An HHSC spokesperson confirmed to The Texas Tribune the files were returned, and the incident was referred to the Office of Inspector General for further investigation. However, it's not yet clear if a HIPAA violation occurred as it hasn't been confirmed whether the files contained any health information.

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