Chancellor hears open records case
A Chancery Court hearing held April 9th allowed arguments to be presented to Chancellor Jerri Bryant on whether or not county insurance records should be provided for an open records request.
A Chancery Court hearing held April 9th allowed arguments to be presented to Chancellor Jerri Bryant on whether or not county insurance records should be provided for an open records request. William Bracken has petitioned the court to compel the county to provide names and amounts paid to the insurance company for everyone on the county’s insurance plan. County Attorney Jimmy Logan argued that information was protected under HIPAA.
Bracken told Chancellor Bryant he was concerned about the insurance costs of the county. He said the cost of insurance jumped from $600,000 to $700,000 in a year and he was interested in that cost in context. Bracken said until he saw the details of whose cost is what, he has no frame of reference. He said he wanted to know the individual names and costs for the last 12 months, month by month.
According to Bracken, he took the summaries of invoices he was given and scheduled it out with the county paying 80%. He said he got a number lower than what was in the amount on the annual report. Bracken said he wanted to dig into the numbers to see why he couldn’t get the same number as what was on the audit report.
“Only with the detailed information can I satisfy myself that the numbers are right,” Bracken said.
Bracken said social security numbers, account numbers, addresses, and personal information could be redacted.
County Attorney Jimmy Logan told Chancellor Bryant the county wanted to be transparent and comply with every aspect of the open records law as long as it was not in federal violation of HIPAA. Logan said health plans were among the items protected by HIPAA. He said the public did not get to know if employees got health, vision, or dental plans. Logan said the county pays 80% of the base plan, but employees were able to choose a higher plan and pay the difference. He said this is protected information, as well.
According to Logan, giving Bracken individual names and costs could enable him to calculate how much the individual was paying for their plan. By using payroll information, Bracken could see the amount deducted from an employee’s paycheck and would know the difference in plans. Logan said that information is protected. He said the basic cost of employee health insurance is part of the budget process making it easy to make computations to figure out the rest.
Chancellor Bryant has not yet made a ruling on the case.
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