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Notice

Privacy Act of 1974; Report of Modified or Altered System

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AGENCY:

Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

ACTION:

Notice of Modified or Altered System of Records (SOR).

SUMMARY:

In accordance with the requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974, we are proposing to modify or alter a SOR, “Explanation of Medicare Benefits Records (EOMB), HHS/HCFA/BPO, System No. 09-70-0513.” We are proposing to change the name of the SOR to “Medicare Benefits Notices (MBN), HHS/HCFA/CBS, System No. 09-70-0513.” We are also proposing to add one new routine use for contractors and consultants, update any sections of the SOR that were affected by the recent reorganization, and to update language in the administrative sections to correspond with language used in other HCFA SOR. The primary purpose of the SOR to provide an explanation of Medicare claims processed and to advise beneficiaries of supplemental insurance, deductible status, appeals information and general Medicare information. Information retrieved from this SOR will be used to support regulatory and policy functions performed within the agency or by a contractor or consultant, support constituent requests made to a congressional representative, and to support litigation involving the agency related to this SOR. We have provided background information about the proposed system in the “Supplementary Information” section below. Although the Privacy Act requires only that HCFA provide an opportunity for interested persons to comment on the proposed routine uses, HCFA invites comments on all portions of this notice. See “Effective Dates” section for comment period.

EFFECTIVE DATES:

HCFA filed a modified or altered system report with the Chair of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, and the Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on July 18, 2000. To ensure that all parties have adequate time in which to comment, the modified or altered SOR, including routine uses, will become effective 40 days from the publication of the notice, or from the date it was submitted to OMB and the Congress, whichever is later, unless HCFA receives comments that require alterations to this notice.

ADDRESSES:

The public should address comments to: Director, Division of Data Liaison and Distribution (DDLD), HCFA, Room N2-04-27, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850. Comments received will be available for review at this location, by appointment, during regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., eastern time zone.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Maria Ramirez, Division of Contractor Customer Service Operations, Center for Beneficiary Services, HCFA, C2-02-10, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland, 21244-1850. The telephone number is 410-786-1122.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Description of the Modified SOR

Statutory and Regulatory Basis for SOR

In 1981, HCFA established a SOR under the authority of sections 205, 226, 1811, and 1832 of Title XVIII of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 405, 426, 1395c, and 1395k). Notice of this system, “Explanation of Medicare Benefits Records, (EOMB),” HHS/HCFA/BPO, System No. 09-70-0513, was published in the Federal Register on October 27, 1981 (46 FR 52706). These regulations established the requirement that an explanation of Medicare benefits be sent to beneficiaries advising them of Medicare benefits remaining, and whether the various deductible requirements have been satisfied.

II. Collection and Maintenance of Data in the System.

A. Scope of the Data Collected

The system includes Medicare hospital insurance benefits records, Part B benefits records, home health benefits records, and Medicare hospital benefits records. These are notices of utilization and explanation of Medicare benefits. They also advise beneficiaries of supplementary insurance, deductible status, appeals information, and general Medicare information.

B. Agency Policies, Procedures, and Restrictions on the Routine Use

The Privacy Act permits us to disclose information without an individual's consent if the information is to be used for a purpose that is compatible with the purpose(s) for which the information was collected. Any such disclosure of data is known as a “routine use.” The government will only release MBN information as provided for under “Section III. Entities Who May Receive Disclosures Under Routine Use.”

We will only disclose the minimum personal data necessary to achieve the purpose of MBN. HCFA has the following policies and procedures concerning disclosures of information which will be maintained in the system. In general, disclosure of information from the SOR will be approved only for the minimum information necessary to accomplish the purpose of the disclosure after HCFA:

(a) Determines that the use or disclosure is consistent with the reason that the data is being collected, e.g., Start Printed Page 48001provide an explanation of Medicare claims processed to beneficiaries.

(b) Determines:

(1) That the purpose for which the disclosure is to be made can only be accomplished if the record is provided in individually identifiable form;

(2) That the purpose for which the disclosure is to be made is of sufficient importance to warrant the effect and/or risk on the privacy of the individual that additional exposure of the record might bring; and

(3) That there is a strong probability that the proposed use of the data would in fact accomplish the stated purpose(s).

(c) Requires the information recipient to:

(1) Establish administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to prevent unauthorized use of disclosure of the record;

(2) Remove or destroy at the earliest time all individual-identifiable information; and

(3) Agree to not use or disclose the information for any purpose other than the stated purpose under which the information was disclosed.

(d) Determines that the data are valid and reliable.

III. Proposed Routine Use Disclosures of Data in the System

Entities Who May Receive Disclosures Under Routine Use

These routine uses specify circumstances, in addition to those provided by statute in the Privacy Act of 1974, under which HCFA may release information from the MBN without the consent of the individual to whom such information pertains. Each proposed disclosure of information under these routine uses will be evaluated to ensure that the disclosure is legally permissible, including but not limited to ensuring that the purpose of the disclosure is compatible with the purpose for which the information was collected. In addition, our policy will be to prohibit release even of non-identifiable data, except pursuant to one of the routine uses, if there is a possibility that an individual can be identified through implicit deduction based on small cell sizes (instances where the patient population is so small that individuals who are familiar with the enrollees could, because of the small size, use this information to deduce the identity of the beneficiary). We are proposing to establish the following routine use disclosures of information maintained in the system:

1. To agency contractors, or consultants who have been engaged by the agency to assist in the performance of a service related to this system of records and who need to have access to the records in order to perform the activity.

We contemplate disclosing information under this routine use only in situations in which HCFA may enter into a contractual or similar agreement with a third party to assist in accomplishing HCFA functions relating to purposes for this SOR.

HCFA occasionally contracts out certain of its functions when this would contribute to effective and efficient operations. HCFA must be able to give contractors or consultants whatever information is necessary for the contractor or consultant to fulfill its duties. In these situations, safeguards are provided in the contract prohibiting the contractor or consultant from using or disclosing the information for any purpose other than that described in the contract and to return or destroy all information at the completion of the contract.

2. To a Member of Congress or to a congressional staff member in response to an inquiry of the congressional office made at the written request of the constituent about whom the record is maintained.

Beneficiaries sometimes request the help of a Member of Congress in resolving an issue relating to a matter before HCFA. The Member of Congress then writes HCFA, and HCFA must be able to give sufficient information to be responsive to the inquiry.

3. To the Department of Justice (DOJ), court or adjudicatory body when:

(a) The agency or any component thereof, or

(b) Any employee of the agency in his or her official capacity, or

(c) Any employee of the agency in his or her individual capacity where the DOJ has agreed to represent the employee, or

(d) The United States Government is a party to litigation or has an interest in such litigation, and by careful review, HCFA determines that the records are both relevant and necessary to the litigation and that the use of such records by the DOJ, court or adjudicatory body is compatible with the purpose for which the agency collected the records.

Whenever HCFA is involved in litigation, and occasionally when another party is involved in litigation and HCFA's policies or operations could be affected by the outcome of the litigation, HCFA would be able to disclose information to the DOJ, court or adjudicatory body involved.

IV. Safeguards

A. Authorized Users

Personnel having access to the system have been trained in Privacy Act requirements. Employees who maintain records in the system are instructed not to release any data until the intended recipient agrees to implement appropriate administrative, technical, procedural, and physical safeguards sufficient to protect the confidentiality of the data and to prevent unauthorized access to the data. Records are used in a designated work area or work station and the system location is attended at all times during working hours.

To ensure security of the data, the proper level of class user is assigned for each individual user. This prevents unauthorized users from accessing and modifying critical data. The system database configuration includes five classes of database users:

  • Database Administrator class owns the database objects, e.g., tables, triggers, indexes, stored procedures, packages, and has database administration privileges to these objects;
  • Quality Control Administrator class has read and write access to key fields in the database;
  • Quality Indicator (QI) Report Generator class has read-only access to all fields and tables;
  • Policy Research class has query access to tables, but are not allowed to access confidential patient identification information; and
  • Submitter class has read and write access to database objects, but no database administration privileges.

B. Physical Safeguards

All server sites have implemented the following minimum requirements to assist in reducing the exposure of computer equipment and thus achieve an optimum level of protection and security for the MBN system:

Access to all servers is controlled, with access limited to only those support personnel with a demonstrated need for access. Servers are to be kept in a locked room accessible only by specified management and system support personnel. Each server requires a specific log-on process. All entrance doors are identified and marked. A log is kept of all personnel who were issued a security card, key and/or combination which grants access to the room housing the server, and all visitors are escorted while in this room. All servers are housed in an area where appropriate environmental security controls are implemented, which include measures implemented to mitigate damage to Automated Information System (AIS) Start Printed Page 48002resources caused by fire, electricity, water and inadequate climate controls.

Protection applied to the workstations, servers and databases include:

  • User Log-ons—Authentication is performed by the Primary Domain Controller/Backup Domain Controller of the log-on domain.
  • Workstation Names—Workstation naming conventions may be defined and implemented at the agency level.
  • Hours of Operation—May be restricted by Windows NT. When activated all applicable processes will automatically shut down at a specific time and not be permitted to resume until the predetermined time. The appropriate hours of operation are determined and implemented at the agency level.
  • Inactivity Log-out—Access to the NT workstation is automatically logged-out after a specified period of inactivity.
  • Warnings—Legal notices and security warnings display on all servers and workstations.
  • Remote Access Security (RAS)—Windows NT RAS security handles resource access control. Access to NT resources is controlled for remote users in the same manner as local users, by utilizing Windows NT file and sharing permissions. Dial-in access can be granted or restricted on a user-by-user basis through the Windows NT RAS administration tool.

There are several levels of security found in the MBN system. Windows NT provides much of the overall system security. The Windows NT security model is designed to meet the C2-level criteria as defined by the U.S. Department of Defense's Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria document (DoD 5200.28-STD, December 1985). Netscape Enterprise Server is the security mechanism for all MBN transmission connections to the system. As a result, Netscape controls all MBN information access requests. Anti-virus software is applied at both the workstation and NT server levels.

Access to different areas on the Windows NT server is maintained through the use of file, directory and share level permissions. These different levels of access control provide security that is managed at the user and group level within the NT domain. The file and directory level access controls rely on the presence of an NT File System (NTFS) hard drive partition. This provides the most robust security and is tied directly to the file system. Windows NT security is applied at both the workstation and NT server levels.

C. Procedural Safeguards

All automated systems must comply with Federal laws, guidance, and policies for information systems security. These include, but are not limited to: the Privacy Act of 1974, the Computer Security Act of 1987, OMB Circular A-130, revised, Information Resource Management (IRM) Circular #10, HHS Automated Information Systems Security Program, the HCFA Information Systems Security Policy and Program Handbook, and other HCFA systems security policies. Each automated information system should ensure a level of security commensurate with the level of sensitivity of the data, risk, and magnitude of the harm that may result from the loss, misuse, disclosure, or modification of the information contained in the system.

V. Effect of the Proposed SOR on Individual Rights

HCFA proposes to establish this system in accordance with the principles and requirements of the Privacy Act and will collect, use, and disseminate information only as prescribed therein. Data in this system will be subject to the authorized releases in accordance with the routine uses identified in this SOR.

HCFA will monitor the collection and reporting of MBN data. HCFA will take precautionary measures (see item IV. above) to minimize the risks of unauthorized access to the records and the potential harm to individual privacy or other personal or property rights. HCFA will collect only that information necessary to perform the system's functions. In addition, HCFA will make disclosure from the proposed system only with consent of the subject individual, or his/her legal representative, or in accordance with an applicable exception provision of the Privacy Act.

HCFA, therefore, does not anticipate an unfavorable effect on individual privacy as a result of the disclosure of information relating to individuals.

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Dated: July 7, 2000.

Nancy-Ann Min DeParle,

Administrator, Health Care Financing Administration.

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SYSTEM NAME:

Medicare Benefits Notices (MBN), HHS/HCFA/CBS.

SECURITY CLASSIFICATION:

Level Three Privacy Act Sensitive Data.

SYSTEM LOCATION:

HCFA Data Center, 7500 Security Boulevard, North Building, First Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850, and Medicare intermediaries and carriers and agents at various locations.

CATEGORIES OF INDIVIDUALS COVERED BY THE SYSTEM:

All recipients of Medicare Part A and Part B services and supplies.

CATEGORIES OF RECORDS IN THE SYSTEM:

The system includes the following information for each beneficiary: Name; address; health insurance claims number (HIC); dates of service; and the contractor assigned claim control number.

AUTHORITY FOR MAINTENANCE OF THE SYSTEM:

Sections 205, 226, 1811, and 1832 of Title XVIII of the Social Security Act (42 USC 405, 426, 1395c, and 1395k).

PURPOSE(S):

The primary purpose of the system of records is to provide an explanation of Medicare claims processed and to advise beneficiaries of supplemental insurance, deductible status, appeals information and general Medicare information. Information retrieved from this system of records will be used to support regulatory and policy functions performed within the agency or by a contractor or consultant, support constituent requests made to a congressional representative, and to support litigation involving the agency related to this system of records.

ROUTINE USES OF RECORDS MAINTAINED IN THE SYSTEM, INCLUDING CATEGORIES OR USERS AND THE PURPOSES OF SUCH USES:

The Privacy Act allows us to disclose information without an individual's consent if the information is to be used for a purpose that is compatible with the purpose(s) for which the information was collected. Any such compatible use of data is known as a “routine use.” The proposed routine use in this system meets the compatibility requirement of the Privacy Act. We are proposing to establish the following routine use disclosures of information that will be maintained in the system:

1. To agency contractors, or consultants who have been engaged by the agency to assist in the performance of a service related to this system of records and who need to have access to the records in order to perform the activity.

2. To a Member of Congress or to a congressional staff member in response to an inquiry of the congressional office made at the written request of the Start Printed Page 48003constituent about whom the record is maintained.

3. To the Department of Justice (DOJ), court or adjudicatory body when:

(a) The agency or any component thereof, or

(b) Any employee of the agency in his or her official capacity, or

(c) Any employee of the agency in his or her individual capacity where the DOJ has agreed to represent the employee, or

(d) The United States Government is a party to litigation or has an interest in such litigation, and by careful review, HCFA determines that the records are both relevant and necessary to the litigation and that the use of such records by the DOJ, court or adjudicatory body is compatible with the purpose for which the agency collected the records.

POLICIES AND PRACTICES FOR STORING, RETRIEVING, ACCESSING, RETAINING, AND DISPOSING OF RECORDS IN THE SYSTEM:

STORAGE:

Computer diskette and on magnetic storage media.

RETRIEVABILITY:

Information can be retrieved by the beneficiary's health insurance claims number or a contractor assigned claim control number.

SAFEGUARDS:

HCFA has safeguards for authorized users and monitors such users to ensure against excessive or unauthorized use. Personnel having access to the system have been trained in the Privacy Act and systems security requirements. Employees who maintain records in the system are instructed not to release any data until the intended recipient agrees to implement appropriate administrative, technical, procedural, and physical safeguards sufficient to protect the confidentiality of the data and to prevent unauthorized access to the data.

In addition, HCFA has physical safeguards in place to reduce the exposure of computer equipment and thus achieve an optimum level of protection and security for the MBN system. For computerized records, safeguards have been established in accordance with HHS standards and National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines, e.g., security codes will be used, limiting access to authorized personnel. System securities are established in accordance with HHS, Information Resource Management (IRM) Circular #10, Automated Information Systems Security Program; HCFA Automated Information Systems (AIS) Guide, Systems Securities Policies, and OMB Circular No. A-130 (revised), Appendix III.

RETENTION AND DISPOSAL:

Records are maintained in a secure storage area with identifiers. Records are placed in an inactive status at the close of the calendar year in which the benefit was paid, held two more years, transferred to a federal records center and destroyed after another six years.

SYSTEM MANAGER:

Director, Division of Contractor Customer Service Operations, Center for Beneficiary Services, HCFA, C2-26-21, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland, 21244-1850. The telephone number is 410-786-2133.

NOTIFICATION PROCEDURE:

For purpose of access, the subject individual should write to the system manager who will require the system name, health insurance claim number, address, date of birth and sex, and for verification purposes, the subject individual's name (woman's maiden name, if applicable) and social security number (SSN). Furnishing the SSN is voluntary, but it may make searching for a record easier and prevent delay.

RECORD ACCESS PROCEDURE:

For purpose of access, use the same procedures outlined in Notification Procedures above. Requestors should also reasonably specify the record contents being sought. (These procedures are in accordance with Department regulation 45 CFR 5b.5(a)(2)).

CONTESTING RECORD PROCEDURES:

The subject individual should contact the system manager named above, and reasonably identify the record and specify the information to be contested. State the corrective action sought and the reasons for the correction with supporting justification. (These procedures are in accordance with Department regulation 45 CFR 5b.7).

RECORD SOURCE CATEGORIES:

Sources of information contained in this records system are provided by the beneficiary when applying for benefits or requesting payment, the physician or provider of services when requesting payment, and computations for amounts of payments and remaining benefits provided by the carriers and intermediaries.

SYSTEMS EXEMPTED FROM CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE ACT:

None.

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FR Doc. 00-18549 Filed 8-3-00; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4120-03-P