In August, a CalOptima employee who was leaving a job with the organization made off with the personal information of about 56,000 people who were enrolled in the county’s health plan for low-income and disabled residents, CalOptima officials acknowledged last week.

But the officials said the data was recovered and they don’t believe it was shared with outsiders.

Apparently, the former employee downloaded the “protected health information” (which includes member names, demographic information, and in some cases social security numbers) of 7 percent of the health plan’s 798,243 members onto a thumb drive.

Within days, however, the thumb drive was returned by the former employee, who CalOptima officials did not name. They also did not say why the former employee downloaded the information.

“While this matter is still under investigation, CalOptima does not believe the information was shared,” the agency stated in a news release.

CalOptima sent out notices Oct. 14 to an unspecified number of current and former members warning them of the data breach.

“CalOptima recommends that affected members monitor the security of their credit and personal information using services offered by the agency at no cost to members,” the news release said.

The health plan said it will pay for one year of free credit monitoring from the three major credit monitoring services on behalf of any of the affected members who ask for it. The services will alert members to any changes in their credit files. Also, parents with children who are CalOptima members can ask for a free service that checks fraudulent credit files created in a child’s name.

In their news release, CalOptima officials said they are “changing our procedures and practices to reduce the chance of it happening again.”
It’s not clear what protections, if any, the agency had in place at the time of the data breach that could have prevented private information from being downloaded to a thumb drive.

CalOptima is a $3.4 billion a year health plan, financed by federal and state taxpayers but its board of directors in appointed by the county Board of Supervisors and includes two supervisors.

You can contact Tracy Wood at and follow her on Twitter: @TracyVOC.

Since you've made it this far,

You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *