B.C. ignores privacy to outsource medical data to U.S.

10-year contract worth $324 million awarded to Maximus Inc.

Victoria - The British Columbia government has privatized the processing of medical claims to U.S.-based Maximus Inc. for 10 years at a cost of $324 million - despite concerns raised just last week in a damning report by the province's privacy commissioner. 
 
The contract, announced Thursday by the Liberal administration of Premier Gordon Campbell, comes with six months to go in the government's mandate and could be renewed for a further five years when the decade-long deal expires.
 
Last week, Privacy Commissioner David Loukidelis released an extensive report concluding that the sweeping powers of the U.S. Patriot Act will allow American authorities to access personal information on Canadians if it ends up in the United States or if it is held by U.S. companies in Canada. 
 
Despite this, Health Minister Colin Hansen claimed in announcing the contract Thursday that privacy of B.C. residents is the government's prime concern.
 

No evidence to believe government

 
He gave no evidence to support his statement and he was immediately challenged by George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGBEU/NUPGE). The BCGEU has led the fight against the outsourcing of private information on B.C. residents.
 
“British Columbians have been double-crossed,” says Heyman. “The health services minister promised that a contract negotiated with Maximus corporation would ensure the privacy of British Columbians would not be compromised. 
 
“Less than a week after the privacy commissioner confirmed in his report that the USA Patriot Act is a real threat to the privacy of British Columbians, the Campbell Liberals are rushing in to sign, seal and deliver a deal!
 
“Minister Hansen said back in April that his government would be seeking advice from the privacy commissioner. Well, last week Commissioner Loukidelis provided his advice by way of 16 extensive recommendations. Either that wasn’t the advice the minister was looking for or he never wanted it in the first place. 
 

FBI could have access

 
“Either way, British Columbians need to know that their government is cutting a deal that could potentially put their personal medical records in the hands of the FBI and other U.S. federal authorities," Heyman said.
 
"All we know for sure is that they are proceeding with a contract signed, sealed and delivered without meeting the privacy commissioner's recommendations to protect British Columbians," Heyman said.
 
The BCGEU has already launched a lawsuit challenging the move. The government said it had incorporated a subsidiary - Maximus BC - to handle the contract. NUPGE
 

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Web posted by NUPGE: 5 November 2004