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Medical Firm Sues IRS For 4th Amendment Violation In Records Seizure 365

Posted by timothy
from the tell-me-again-why-you-hate-all-that-is-good dept.
cold fjord writes "A healthcare provider has sued the Internal Revenue Service and 15 of its agents, charging they wrongfully seized 60 million medical records from 10 million Americans ... [The unnamed company alleges] the agency violated the Fourth Amendment in 2011, when agents executed a search warrant for financial data on one employee – and that led to the seizure of information on 10 million, including state judges. The search warrant did not specify that the IRS could take medical information, UPI said. And information technology officials warned the IRS about the potential to violate medical privacy laws before agents executed the warrant, the complaint said." Also at Nextgov.com.
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Medical Firm Sues IRS For 4th Amendment Violation In Records Seizure

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  • by girlinatrainingbra (2738457) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:15PM (#43770281)
    Scientology has been the only group that has fought the IRS and won, albeit with dirty tricks and pressure:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology#Dispute_of_religion_status [wikipedia.org] : the IRS claimed that it was all above-board and had nothing to do with the tactics and push-through of Scientology
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Snow_White [wikipedia.org] : the theft of private and privileged documents from the IRS offices and from other governmental agencies
    even Wikipedia thinks that CoS plays dirty [wikipedia.org] and doesn't play fair

    If it takes that level of psychopathy and money and criminal activity in order to successfully fight against the IRS, what odds does a company with legitimate meritorious claims against the IRS have? None? :>(

  • by Technician (215283) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:21PM (#43770299)

    They are getting a head start on Obamacare where your medical care and finances are all part of the Government. Get used to it as the new norm if you use healthcare in the US.

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:25PM (#43770327) Journal

    They seized 60 million records of 10 million people because of 1 possible tax cheat? Nice.

    To paraphrase a wise man recently, "I don't want to see who's getting slapped on the wrist. I want to see who's going to jail."

  • Scandalous! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:29PM (#43770345)

    Let us know when you have the other side of the story.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:29PM (#43770351) Journal

    I was expecting the CDC to pull this stunt, but the IRS?

    They're just getting a head start on Obamacare - which they will be administering.

    Ten million people's medical records? They now have a mandate to have EVERYBODY's.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:36PM (#43770387)

    Oh, it's more than that. The IRS is the key enforcer for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    Your Next IRS Political Audit - The tax agency is getting vast new power in health care [wsj.com]
    The IRS Is Accessing Your Health Records. You Trust Them? [forbes.com]

    The US Government needs to get the problems at that agency fixed, now. Between this and the suppression of political groups going on [thedailybeast.com], this is intollerable and undemocratic. What did Franklin say? A Republic, if you can keep it?

    The IRS’s Curious Immunity - It’s worse than the PATRIOT Act. [nationalreview.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:42PM (#43770411)

    When everyone kept their mouths shut when the Warrantless Wiretapping was approved, did you expect it to stop there? Benjamin Franklin's quote about temporary safety fell upon deaf ears in the U.S. We are now the police state plutocracy we've always wanted. Good luck getting your privacy back.

  • End the IRS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alex Vulpes (2836855) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:50PM (#43770441)
    We should abolish the IRS entirely. Just kill the dang thing.

    (Sorry if that sounds like a shameless political plug, but I'm starting to think that's what really needs to happen.)

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:50PM (#43770443)

    The US Government needs to get the problems at that agency fixed, now.

    What problem? The issues you are referring to are features of the IRS that led to it being chosen for its role as the key enforcer of the Affordable Care Act, not bugs that would lead those who passed that law to consider it unwise to give it that additional power.

  • by Microlith (54737) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:52PM (#43770455)

    They now have a mandate to have EVERYBODY's.

    Really now? Where in the legislation does it say that the IRS has the right to access health records?

  • by I'm New Around Here (1154723) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @07:53PM (#43770461)

    Sadly, the guys who idolize President Obama don't care about this story, or the many others. To them, it's just the conservatives/GOP showing their hatred of the first black president, nothing more.

    So, I've given up hope that they will see the light of what this administration is like. They'll keep voting for guys like him, who will bring this country down very soon. There is no avoiding that fate. I'm not clamoring for revolution, but I think a civil war is coming.

  • They're just getting a head start on Obamacare - which they will be administering.

    Would that be like the IRS targeting conservative, jewish and non-supporting AGW groups. I'm sure it was all fine, nothing like, to ensure that the "right message" is being presented by stifling dissenting views. Or seizing AP phone records, or going after commentators that are critical of Obama and Obamacare?

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:05PM (#43770525)

    If you weren't making it up, you could link to the exact part of the law.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:09PM (#43770535)

    You clearly have no idea how such systems work. My guess is that the IRS served their warrant and then demanded read only ODBC/API access to the companies systems. The company's DBAs likely balked at the idea... I know I would... and said "listen, if you have that sort of access, you could violate Hipaa if you submit the wrong query. We're very stringent on what we allow to be run against our tables" But the IRS being the IRS said "Fuck you, we're the IRS" and went right ahead. Once you have a legit login and password the data is no longer encrypted for you.

    Knowing the ramifications of what the IRS were doing, the company likely logged their queries. The IRS's DBAs likely were worried the company in question could potentially get a court injunction to stop their access so their first query was likely "Select * from customers;" and dumped the entire table to a local table. Then company in question likely saw this, freaked out, but realized any lawsuit they filed would likely be quashed by "We have an ongoing investigation" yada yada... so they kept quiet about it until the original case was over.

    I'm just guessing but I've been in similar situations and the governments admins are pricks and usually don't have a clue what they are doing. Violating hipaa is VERY easy to do if you don't know what you're doing. So much so that many people don't even want to work in departments that have access to such information. Make a typo in your query and you're getting walked out the door.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:10PM (#43770545)

    I assume they will be passing that money to affected Americans?

    Suing the government for massive amounts of money, in terms of society as a whole, is about as productive as sending yourself a wire transfer. A bunch of fees and no net gain.

    Any money the IRS would pay out, would simply have to be collected back from the people.

  • by amiga3D (567632) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:15PM (#43770565)

    It's not about Republican versus Democrat. Everywhere it counts they are the same. When it comes to fucking over the country they are bipartisan. They differ only on peripheral issues that, while important to the public, are irrelevant to the things which really matter to those who rule. Things like abortion, religion, racism, affirmative action, and gay marriage are just hot button issues used to divide the public so that the elite can rule us better. As long as we're hating each other over things that don't matter to our rulers then it's all good. You can give up though, it's hopeless. Every single time I pointed out how bad GW Bush was all any of his supporters had to say was "he's not as bad as those evil Democrats" and when I point out the fallacies of the Obama administration all I get is "at least he's better than those evil neo-cons!" People have their side and they are oblivious to anything other than how bad the other side is.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:17PM (#43770577)

    The IRS is the one that is charged with ensuring that everyone has insurance, not with keeping and maintaining medical records.

    Lets use the ever popular car analogy. The Department of Motor Vehicles checks to make sure that you have car insurance. The Department of Motor Vehicles doesn't keep copies of the maintenance records, oil changes, refueling, car washes, and tune-ups. The IRS is like the DMV - they will check to make sure that you have insurance, they shouldn't have your health records. This is over the line.

    I would hope your wouldn't actually want that. The most charitable thing you can say at the moment is that they apparently have more power than they can manage is a responsible way, let along legal way.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:21PM (#43770597)

    After all those years of the current anti-Obama crowd desperately defending the shamefully illegal shenanigans of GWB's administration, I just don't quite know how to react to seeing them implode over this Obama-related stuff.

    Why couldn't you get this angry at Bush Corp when it was doing similar or worse stuff? Why did you try so hard to dismiss any criticism of the unlawful (and almost always far worse) behavior of people such as GWB, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, et al?

    I'm not suggesting it is wrong for you to be critical of current events, because we should all be crying foul. But it would be nice if you objected when everyone does it, and not just when it's the other team.

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:24PM (#43770611)

    Substitute storage array and you might be right. From what I've read, it almost certainly wasn't a trivial amount of data as it included treatment plans, history, etc.. Since it was for a former employee, you have to wonder why they couldn't either just ask for a report to be printed, or something else. It is very hard to believe that this isn't a massive over-reach.

    I don't know about that. Right now all we have is the plaintiff's word for it that proper protocols weren't followed. They admit there was a warrant.

    Let's get some facts before we jump to conclusions. If we have a story everytime someone cries foul, there won't be enough bandwidth for anything else.

    Now if someone gets convicted, or slapped with a zillion dollar fine, then we'll have a story.

  • by Redmancometh (2676319) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:46PM (#43770723)

    Some of us are angry over both. The patriot act started the slippery slope....obama greased the slide.

  • by Redmancometh (2676319) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @08:49PM (#43770731)

    Obama administration I mean. Gwb gave them a strong start...but they are continuing all of this. As a rule of thumb under gwb illegal atrocitied were perpatrated....under obama they are nice n legal.

  • by techno-vampire (666512) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:04PM (#43770793) Homepage
    The most charitable thing you can say at the moment is that they apparently have more power than they can manage is a responsible way, let along legal way.

    It may be more accurate to say that certain IRS agents think they have far more power than they actually do and have let their mistake go to their heads.
  • Re:Propaganda (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:19PM (#43770867)

    They had a search warrant for financial data regarding one former employee, and they took tens of millions of medical records too, which they weren't entitled to.

    So they took a hard drive that contained that employees information along with some other database and didn't remove and leave behind the ceramic platter that contained the other database?

    . They stepped over the line, despite being warned. How is this confusing to you?

    The question is really what did they actually take? Did they haul out all the filing cabinets on 2 floors full of printed records? Or did they take a single file server that contained what they were looking for, and which also had some other stuff on it too.

  • by msauve (701917) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:20PM (#43770873)
    Yep. Which means the only real solution, and deterrent, is to place personal responsibility upon those who ordered and implemented these activities. Start firing people and taking away their cushy government pensions and benefits, instead of letting them resign into comfy retirement, and you'll start seeing change.
  • by adrn01 (103810) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:23PM (#43770889)

    I believe part of the law states that insurance companies must spend a minimum of 80% of premiums on actual health care.
      How would the IRS, or whatever body is supposed to police that part of the law, verify what is ACTUALLY being spent on that, versus what the insurance companies are CLAIMING they spend?
      If seizing medical records en-masse was their solution, perhaps a better method might be needed. Still, that might be what is going on here.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:36PM (#43770923)

    It certainly appears that the Obama administration went after political opponents with the IRS. Can you point out when the Bush administration did that with either the IRS or FBI against political opponents? I don't recall that happening.

    You may recall the Obama administration going after Fox News repeatedly. What comparable thing happened under the Bush administration? I don't recall that happening.

    Nixon was actually right about the war in Vietnam, and extracted the US from it. There isn't much doubt that the US was correct about going to war in Afghanistan, and all of the causes of action against Iraq were correct (banned long range missiles, obstruction, crimes against humanity, etc.) except the active WMD programs. The WMD programs were in stasis, just waiting for Saddam to complete his breakout of sanctions using the Oil for Food money to bribe UN members and politicians around the world. If Iraq was able to break out of the sanctions regime, there is no doubt those WMD programs would restart. Oh, and don't forget, Saddam had the government mime as if they still had WMD material to fool the Iranians. He didn't think the West in general, and the US specifically, would act. He guessed wrong.

    Since the IRS under the Obama administration was asking extremely intrusive questions of conservative political groups, and then forwarding that information to liberal groups, I guess that counts as spying too. You think the Bush administration did that? Not so much.

    Other than working in the White House, I don't recall that either Cheney or Rumsfeld were ever implicated in any part of the Watergate scandal. So unless you have something, you have nothing as the basis for a smear.

    I don't think you nailed this one other than successfully identifying where two people worked for a short period.

  • Wake up zombies! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by waiting 4 ww3 (2927193) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @09:58PM (#43771017)
    I am tired of this BS. Listen to yourselves! Both sides defending the dems or reps. Let me clue you into something, kiddies. Neither side gives a crap about you, or this country. They're both evil, with their own agendas. And their agendas do not involve doing what's best the U.S. They care only about getting and maintaining power. The 2 party poli system is more dangerous to our nation then terrorism. And it will be to our own destruction if we don't rise up and change it.
  • Re:Scandalous! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sabri (584428) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @10:07PM (#43771039)

    Let us know when you have the other side of the story.

    I can tell you the other side of the story right now:

    Investigative Media: IRS, could you please give is your side if the story?
    IRS: No, we do not comment on pending legislation

    --- Jury gives verdict ---

    Investigative Media: IRS, could you please give is your side if the story?
    IRS: No, we do not comment while we appeal

    --- Supreme Court gives verdict ---

    Investigative Media: IRS, could you please give is your side if the story?
    IRS: No, we do not comment on matters that have been dealt with by the courts, we look at the future now.

  • by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @10:18PM (#43771085)

    This wasn't a laptop, this was servers. Probably a pretty substantial setup too. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a cluster of big RISC boxes with a substantial SAN. Where you are thinking, "HDD," think disk storage array, a big one.

    Sounds to me more like the firm is concerned with covering their own asses for not having properly secured the data in the first place.

    It is clearly indicated the agents went outside what was in the warrant, were warned about it, and took the data anyway - just to get some financial data on one former employee. I would normally expect you to be outraged about this sort of thing, violated warrant, government overreach and all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 19, 2013 @10:30PM (#43771133)
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @10:34PM (#43771147)

    Nobody is being forced to buy the most expensive insurance policies.

    Catastrophic insurance policies, the only reasonable policy for a young person, are dead. The only plans that meet the criteria are larded up past any plans I ever had or needed.

    "Assuming that they don't qualify for one of the numerous exemptions written into the law."

    Code for "are not Democratic contributors or unions or any other Democratic groups that get exemptions". Yes we already know about the Democrat's use of government as a hammer to stamp out ideological opponents.

    Had the GOP been voted in, it would have meant that nobody would have health insurance because the rates would continue to climb

    It would have meant health care rates would have fallen after the GOP voted in the health care reforms they were asking for, like caps on malpractice and allowing insurance to be sold across state lines.

    I'll let you have the last response since all you do is yammer Democratic talking points; further discussion of the reality of he stormy waters into which we are sailing is pointless. I'll just watch over the next year as you and the rest of the people who don't understand the reality of what Obamacare was get the full dose you deserve, dealt at the hands of the IRS. Enjoy!

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday May 19, 2013 @10:59PM (#43771247)
    You missed the joke. Last I've read, IRS regulations are added at a rate greater than a human can read. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, even when the law is unknowable. So go read the the laws and let us know which one causes the problem. By the time you finish reading it, you'll be dead, and have violated many of them before you managed to read them (or interpreted them differently than some random judge)
  • by Corporate T00l (244210) on Monday May 20, 2013 @12:30AM (#43771533) Journal

    The fact that there was a court case filed on this topic is not much of a news story. If you went through court filings, you can find any number of bizarre and conspiratorial lawsuits filed against the government everyday, all over the place.

    The real mystery is how a run-of-the-mill everyday nutcase filing gets to the front page of Slashdot. The answer to that has everything to do with the Washington Times, and guttentag's comment.

  • by JosKarith (757063) on Monday May 20, 2013 @03:49AM (#43772053)
    You'll probably find that just knowing some of those laws violates another law...
  • by usuallylost (2468686) on Monday May 20, 2013 @07:36AM (#43772545)

    If you weren't making it up, you could link to the exact part of the law.

    That is an unreasonably high standard. I think murder is illegal but I can't link the "exact part of the law". Actually having tried to read the law on a few matters, without a law degree I doubt you can even identify what the "exact part" is. In part because laws are written in extremely technical language and in part because most laws, at least the ones I have looked at, are basically a bit of new verbiage with some statements like "change code section whatever to read X". Most non-lawyers are totally dependent upon lawyers to tell us what the law really is. Another reason it is often difficult to find a piece of the law is congress has become prone to writing laws that instead of saying specifics will actually say Agency X will regulate Y to achieve Z. So the details you are looking for aren't in the law at all they are contained in administrative regulation that may or may not have been written yet.

    In this case I do not know whether they will get access to our medical records. What has been widely reported in the media is that you will have to prove compliance with the affordable care act. The IRS has been charged with enforcement and will be collecting "enforcement related data". Which will likely be at least medically related. It isn't clear to me just how far that goes. If I was a betting man I'd say that the IRS has not determined what will be collected yet. Whatever they are collecting there is going to be a lot of it because they have requested 16,000 additional workers specifically for this purpose.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday May 20, 2013 @07:50AM (#43772607) Journal

    It would have meant health care rates would have fallen after the GOP voted in the health care reforms they were asking for, like caps on malpractice and allowing insurance to be sold across state lines.

    The GOP had 8 years to pass health care reform under Bush. You don't really believe they would have passed anything, do you? You're not that much of a sucker, are you?

    BTW, if you cap malpractice, who pays for the health care of someone who was injured by malpractice? If the slip of a knife causes someone to require tens of thousands of dollars of health care, where is that going to come from? This wouldn't be a problem under single payer, btw. What's the conservative solution? Let the market sort it out?

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