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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 system of records, “A Current Beneficiary Survey (CBS), HHS/HCFA/OACT, System No. 09-70-6002.” We propose to delete published routine use number 2 authorizing disclosure to the Bureau of the Census, and an unnumbered routine use authorizing disclosure to the Social Security Administration. Routine use number 2 unnecessarily duplicated Exception 4 of the Privacy Act allowing release of data to the Bureau of the Census. We propose to add a new routine use for release of information to another federal agency to broaden the scope of release for activities related to this system of records. We will modify the name of this system to read, “Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS).” The security classification previously reported as “None” will be modified to reflect that the data in this system is considered to be “Level Three Privacy Act Sensitive.” We are modifying the language in the remaining routine uses to provide clarity to HCFA's intention to disclose individual-specific information contained in this system. The routine uses will then be prioritized and reordered according to their usage. We will also take the opportunity to update any sections of the system 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 system of records is to maintain a research database for HCFA and other researchers that is capable of producing data sets suitable for both longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis to be used to: (1) Produce projections for current programs and proposed program changes, (2) produce national level estimates of health care expenditures by the aged and disabled, and (3) provide a research database that can be used to provide guidance to program management and policies. Information in this system will also be used to: support research of policy issues, quality and effectiveness of care, and of epidemiological projects, support regulatory and policy functions performed within the agency or by a contractor or consultant, another federal agency, support constituent requests made to a congressional representative, and support litigation involving the agency related to this system of records. We have provided background information about the modified 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 March 12, 2001. To ensure that all parties have adequate time in which to comment, the modified or altered system of records, 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, 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:

Sydney P. Galloway, Privacy Act Coordinator, Systems, Technical, and Analytic Resources Group, Office of Strategic Planning (OSP), HCFA, Mailstop C3-24-07, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850. The telephone number is 410-786-6645. The e-mail address is sgalloway@hcfa.gov. Start Printed Page 15497

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Description of the Modified (SOR)

Statutory and Regulatory Basis for (SOR)

In 1990, HCFA established a (SOR) under the authority of section 1875 of the Social Security Act (42 United States Code (U.S.C.) 139511), entitled “Studies and Recommendations.” Notice of this system, “A Current Beneficiary Survey (CBS), HHS/HCFA/OACT, System No. 09-70-6002,” was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, September 4, 1990 (55 Fed. Reg. 35957).

II. Collection and Maintenance of Data in the System

A. Scope of the Data Collected

The system contains a random sampling of individuals enrolled for hospital insurance (Part A) and/or supplemental medical benefits (Part B) under the Medicare program. Information contained in this system include the name of beneficiary, health insurance claim (HIC) number, age, sex, race, education, military service history, income data, marital status, medical utilization and cost data, prescription drug usage and cost data, health and functional status, health insurance coverage, medical condition status, household composition data, and medical provider names.

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 which 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 CBS information that can be associated with an individual as provided for under “Section III. Proposed Routine Use Disclosures of Data in the System.” Both identifiable and non-identifiable data may be disclosed under a routine use.

We will only disclose the minimum personal data necessary to achieve the purpose of CBS. 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 system of records will be approved only for the minimum information necessary to accomplish the purpose of the disclosure only after HCFA:

(a) Determines that the use or disclosure is consistent with the reason that the data is being collected, e.g., to maintain a research database that is capable of producing data sets suitable for both longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis to: (1) Produce projections for current programs and proposed program changes, (2) produce national level estimates of health care expenditures by the aged and disabled, and (3), provide a research database that can be used to provide guidance to program management and policies.

(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 individually-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

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 uses in this system meet the compatibility requirement of the Privacy Act. We are proposing to establish the following routine use disclosures of information maintained in the system:

1. To an individual or organization for research, evaluation, or epidemiological projects related to the prevention of disease or disability, or the restoration or maintenance of health, and for payment related projects.

The collected data will provide the research, evaluation and epidemiological projects a broader, longitudinal, national perspective of the data. HCFA anticipates that many researchers will have legitimate requests to use these data in projects that could ultimately improve the care provided to Medicare patients and the policy that governs the care. HCFA understands the concerns about the privacy and confidentiality of the release of data for a research use. Disclosure of data for research and evaluation purposes may involve aggregate data rather than individual-specific data.

2. To agency contractors, or consultants who have been engaged by the agency to assist in accomplishment of a HCFA function relating to the purposes for this system of records and who need to have access to the records in order to assist HCFA.

We contemplate disclosing information under this routine use only in situations in which HCFA may enter into an award or similar agreement with a third party to assist in accomplishing HCFA function relating to purposes for this system of records.

HCFA occasionally contracts out certain of its functions when doing so would contribute to effective and efficient operations. HCFA must be able to give a contractor or consultant 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 requires the contractor or consultant to return or destroy all information at the completion of the contract.

3. To another federal agency to enable such agency to administer a federal health benefits program, or as necessary to enable such agency to fulfill a requirement of a federal statute or regulation that implements a health benefits program funded in whole or in part with federal funds.

Other federal agencies in their administration of a federal health program may require MCBS information in order to support evaluations and monitoring of reimbursement for services provided.

4. 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.

5. To the Department of Justice (DOJ), court or adjudicatory body when: Start Printed Page 15498

(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 is deemed by the agency to be for a purpose that is compatible with the purposes for which the agency collected the records.

Whenever HCFA is involved in litigation, or 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

The MCBS system will conform with applicable law and policy governing the privacy and security of federal automated information systems. These include but are not limited to: the Privacy Act of 1974, Computer Security Act of 1987, the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) of 1995, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, and OMB Circular A-130, Appendix III, “Security of Federal Automated Information Resources.” HCFA has prepared a comprehensive system security plan as required by the Office and Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130, Appendix III. This plan conforms fully to guidance issued by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) in NIST Special Publication 800-18, “Guide for Developing Security Plans for Information Technology Systems.” Paragraphs A-C of this section highlight some of the specific methods that HCFA is using to ensure the security of this system and the information within it.

A. Authorized users: Personnel having access to the system have been trained in Privacy Act and systems security requirements. Employees and contractors 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 is monitoring the authorized users to ensure against excessive or unauthorized use. Records are used in a designated work area or work station and the system location is attended at all times during working hours.

To assure security of the data, the proper level of class user is assigned for each individual user as determined at the agency level. 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 individual 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 MCBS 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) resources 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 Services (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 MCBS 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 transmission connections to the system. As a result, Netscape controls all 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 are 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 as stated previously in this section. 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. Start Printed Page 15499

V. Effect of the Modified System of Records on Individual Rights

HCFA proposes to modify 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 system of records.

HCFA will monitor the collection and reporting of MCBS data. MCBS information on individuals is completed by agency personnel and submitted to HCFA through standard systems located at different locations. HCFA will utilize a variety of onsite and offsite edits and audits to increase the accuracy of MCBS 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 including not collecting individually identifiable data for non-HCFA individuals. HCFA will collect only that information necessary to perform the system's functions. In addition, HCFA will make disclosure of identifiable data from the modified 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: February 9, 2001.

Michael McMullan,

Acting Deputy Administrator, Health Care Financing Administration.

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09-70-6002

SYSTEM NAME:

Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) System, HHS/HCFA/OSP.

SECURITY CLASSIFICATION:

Level Three Privacy Act Sensitive.

SYSTEM LOCATION:

HCFA Data Center, 7500 Security Boulevard, North Building, First Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850.

CATEGORIES OF INDIVIDUALS COVERED BY THE SYSTEM:

The system contains a random sampling of individuals enrolled for hospital insurance (Part A) and/or supplemental medical benefits (Part B) under the Medicare program.

CATEGORIES OF RECORDS IN THE SYSTEM:

Information contained in this system include the name of the beneficiary, health insurance claim number (HIC) number, age, sex, race, education, military service history, income, marital status, medical utilization and cost, prescription drug usage and cost data, health and functional status, health insurance coverage, medical condition status, household composition and medical provider names.

AUTHORITY FOR MAINTENANCE OF THE SYSTEM:

Authority for the maintenance of this system of records is given under of section 1875 of the Social Security Act (42 United States Code (USC) 1395ll), entitled, “Studies and Recommendations.”

PURPOSE(S):

The primary purpose of the system of records is to maintain a research database for HCFA and other researchers that is capable of producing data sets suitable for both longitudinal and cross-sectional analysis to be used to: (1) Produce projections for current programs and proposed program changes, (2) produce national level estimates of health care expenditures by the aged and disabled, and (3) provide a research database that can be used to provide guidance to program management and policies. Information in this system will also be used to: Support research of policy issues, quality and effectiveness of care, and of epidemiological projects, support regulatory and policy functions performed within the agency or by a contractor or consultant, other federal agencies, support constituent requests made to a congressional representative, and 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 which 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 modify the following routine use disclosures of information which will be maintained in the system:

1. To an individual or organization for research, evaluation, or epidemiological projects related to the prevention of disease or disability, or the restoration or maintenance of health, and for payment related projects.

2. To agency contractors, or consultants who have been engaged by the agency to assist in accomplishment of a HCFA function relating to the purposes for this system of records and who need to have access to the records in order to assist HCFA.

3. To another federal agency to enable such agency to administer a federal health benefits program, or as necessary to enable such agency to fulfill a requirement of a federal statute or regulation that implements a health benefits program funded in whole or in part with federal funds.

4. 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.

5. 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 is deemed by the agency to be for a purpose that is compatible with the purposes 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 name, and HIC of the beneficiary.

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. Start Printed Page 15500

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 MCBS system. For computerized records, safeguards have been established in accordance with the Department of Health and Human Services (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. Disposal occurs ten years after the final action of the research project is completed.

SYSTEM MANAGERS AND ADDRESS:

Director, Systems, Office of Strategic Planning, HCFA, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21244-1850.

NOTIFICATION PROCEDURE:

For purpose of access, the subject individual should write to the system manager who will require the system name, HIC, date of birth, and sex, and for verification purposes, the subject individual's name (woman's maiden name, if applicable), and 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:

HCFA obtains the identifying information contained in this records system from Medicare enrollment records, Medicare bill records, Medicare provider records, Medicare beneficiaries and or their representatives, and Medicare carriers and intermediaries.

SYSTEMS EXEMPTED FROM CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE ACT:

None.

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[FR Doc. 01-6538 Filed 3-16-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4120-03-P