Tuesday, Oct.16, 2018

Insurer Anthem will pay record $16M for massive data breach

Officials say the nation's second-largest health insurer has agreed to pay the government a record $16 million to settle potential privacy violations in the biggest known health care hack in U.S. history.

The personal information of nearly 79 million people — including names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and medical IDs — was exposed in the cyberattack, discovered by the company in 2015.

The settlement between Anthem Inc. and the Department of Health and Human Services represents the largest amount collected by the agency in a health care data breach.

HHS Office for Civil Rights Director Roger Severino says "When you have large breaches it erodes people's confidence in the privacy of their sensitive information, and we believe such a large breach of trust merits a substantial payment." The office also enforces the federal health care privacy law known as HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Severino said the Anthem settlement is nearly three times larger than the previous record amount paid to the government in a privacy case. That sends a message to the industry that "hackers are out there always and large health care entities in particular are targets."

The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer also agreed to a corrective action plan under government monitoring, which involves a process for the company to assess its electronic security risks, take appropriate countermeasures and maintain ongoing surveillance.

Anthem covers more than 40 million people and sells individual and employer coverage in key markets like New York and California.


Jurors: Don't throw out $289M weed killer cancer verdict

Jurors who found that agribusiness giant Monsanto's Roundup weed killer contributed to a school groundskeeper's cancer are urging a San Francisco judge not to throw out the bulk of their $289 million award in his favor.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports juror Gary Kitahata told Judge Suzanne Bolanos in a letter that the jury was convinced by the evidence.

He said "I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the six weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial."

Juror Robert Howard wrote to the judge that the jury had paid "studious attention" to the evidence and any decision to overturn its verdict would shake his confidence in the judicial system.

Bolanos said last week she’s inclined to throw out $250 million in punitive damages in favor of DeWayne Johnson. She’s also considering dramatically reducing the remaining award. Her final decision is due by Oct. 22.

Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer AG in June, has asked the judge to override the jury's decision and enter judgment in its favor or order a new trial.


Dating site owner to repay $1 million to customers

The company that owns Christian Mingle, Jdate and other online dating sites will pay a $500,000 fine and nearly $1 million in restitution to customers whose subscriptions were automatically renewed or who were denied refunds when requested.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced that a task force of local prosecutors found that dating sites owned by Spark Networks USA automatically renewed customer payments without their consent.

Officials say under the judgment negotiated with Spark Networks, the firm's sites must now clearly disclose renewal terms and allow users to easily cancel their subscriptions.

Members of the Auto Renewal Task Force include district attorneys of San Diego, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.


Laguna Niguel

The Laguna Niguel City Council tonight will discuss what it can do to combat the opioid epidemic.

City Manager Kristine Ridge says the opioid epidemic continues to plague the country as the current estimation of daily opioid related deaths stands at 130. And in Laguna Niguel last year, there were five opioid related overdose deaths.

She says staff will update the Council on its plans to increase the marketing of the existing drug disposal receptacle in Police Services and the two annual drug take back events at the Sea Country and Senior Community Center.

And also, staff recommends the city participate in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Saturday National Prescription Drug Take Back Days next year.

Tonight’s City Council meeting begins at seven.


Lake Forest

The Lake Forest City Council tonight will hear how the city is working to improve its economic development.

Mayor Jim Gardner says City Manager Debra Rose will make a presentation that will include the results of the change in the city’s Shop and Dine program which was expanded this year from a week to a month. He says some of the program’s coupons were extended out to the end of the year, instead of expiring at the end of September. And he’s anxious to hear how many coupons were used.

He says more people attended the “Taste of Lake Forest,” than in the past.

Gardner says the city promotes Lake Forest’s businesses to encourage the community to keep tax dollars local.

Tonight’s City Council meeting begins at 6:30 in the evening.


Democrats lead Republicans on fundraising ahead of midterms

Democrats lead Republicans in the money race in many of the key Senate and House campaigns three weeks ahead of midterm elections that will determine control of Congress.

According to the latest campaign finance disclosures, although the Senate map positions Republicans to maintain their narrow majority, some of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents continued to rake in cash in the third quarter of 2018. Among House candidates, the Democrats' campaign arm says that at least 60 Democrats topped $1 million in fundraising during the quarter, with several posting bundles in excess of $2 million and even $3 million.

And national Democrats say that includes many challengers outraising Republican incumbents.