Private means private

Not so fast, creditors

The California Supreme Court ruled recently that residents can sue health-care providers, debt collectors, or anyone else who releases their private medical data to a credit-reporting agency without permission, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In mid-June, the court reversed a state appellate-court decision that gave priority to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act over the state’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act. While federal law has restrictions on the disclosure of private medical records, it does not allow individuals to sue those who furnish records to credit-information groups. At the same time, California’s 1981 medical-privacy law permits residents to sue anyone who discloses private records without permission.

The decision reinstated a suit involving Los Angeles attorney Robert Brown, whose dental charts were given to debt collectors after he refused to pay a $600 dental bill for a service he says he did not receive.