The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services in late December inadvertently mailed more than 48,000 Medicaid cards for children to the wrong addresses.

New requirements of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect on January 1 required switching 70,253 children from insurance coverage under the NC Health Choice program to Medicaid. The department issued new Medicaid cards to these recipients and mailed them on Dec. 30, and on Dec. 31 began receiving reports that recipients were getting cards for the wrong children.

The department in a Jan. 3 announcement said it determined that 48,752 cards with were sent to wrong addresses, with a child’s name, date of birth, Medicaid ID number and primary care physician on the cards. “DHHS knows exactly which Medicaid cards were sent to which addresses and is rapidly working to issue correct Medicaid cards,” according to the announcement. Until correct cards are received, the old NC Health Choice ID number or card remains valid and providers will be able to verify eligibility.

In an update on Jan. 4, the department announced that staff was working through the weekend to continue to investigate the errors and get correct cards mailed. Department privacy and security staff also were conducting an assessment to determine if the incident must be reported under the HIPAA breach notification rule.

As Medicaid recipients are issued new cards, the mistakenly sent cards will be invalid, according to the department. “Issuance of a new Medicaid number will mitigate potential misuse of the incorrectly issued cards. Additionally, the Medicaid Division will flag the affected Medicaid ID cards within the DHHS computer system to treat them with extra scrutiny and caution. DHHS will be alerted if those compromised cards are used.”

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