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Inquiry Finds That Pharmacies Including CVS Health and Walmart Shared Medical Data To Police

In a recent congressional inquiry, major pharmacy chains, encompassing #CVS Health, #Kroger, and #RiteAid, disclosed the provision of Americans' prescription records to #police and government investigators sans the necessity of a warrant, sparking worries about medical privacy. While certain chains mandate legal review, the three most extensive ones permit staff to hand over medical records within the store. This revelation surfaced in a letter from Senator Ron Wyden and Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Sara Jacobs to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Originating after the Supreme Court's abortion-related ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the investigation highlights potential privacy threats amid efforts to criminalize abortion and reproductive health drugs across different states. Pharmacies' records harbor sensitive details, and the exchange of records across states with disparate laws establishes a digital trail.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) governs health information and allows pharmacies flexibility in revealing records to police. Congressional investigators ascertained that pharmacy giants, encompassing Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger, Cigna, Optum Rx, and Amazon Pharmacy, generally demand only a subpoena, eschewing the need for a warrant to share records. CVS, Kroger, and Rite Aid purportedly instruct staff to process law enforcement requests on the spot, citing perceived time pressure.

This disclosure has spurred appeals to fortify HIPAA regulations, insist on warrants for disclosure, and champion proactive customer notification and transparency reports. Among the scrutinized companies, only Amazon reportedly informs customers unless legally prohibited. Lawmakers underscored the imperative to safeguard Americans' private medical information at pharmacy counters.

We'll continue to follow this story for more updates.

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