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Address management fiasco affects state government in North Carolina

Richard Jones Archive

Proper address management practices are vital for workers in all sectors. For any organization - public or private - that collects banks of citizens' contact information, it's important to make sure that that data is accurate and up to date. If it isn't, these groups run the risk of sending faulty mailings to consumers. The consequences of such a mistake could be catastrophic - wasted time, wasted money, perhaps even damaged reputations.

One such data mishap recently came to light in North Carolina. According to the Charlotte Observer, the state government recently made a massive mistake because of a faulty database of Medicaid recipients.

North Carolina health officials admitted to the Charlotte Observer that they had inadvertently disclosed the personal information of tens of thousands of children receiving Medicaid coverage. On Dec. 30, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it had mailed nearly 49,000 children's Medicaid cards to the wrong recipients.

The information on the cards included the recipients' names, Medicaid ID numbers, dates of birth and names of their primary care doctors. Under federal law, this information is supposed to be tightly protected.

Sandra Terrell, acting director of Medicaid in North Carolina, told the newspaper that her office is looking into the mistake, trying to get to the bottom of whatever technical problem caused the address management disaster.

"The department has begun a careful review of this incident to determine how it occurred and to ensure personal information is protected," Terrell said. "DHHS knows exactly which Medicaid cards were sent to which addresses and is rapidly working to issue correct Medicaid cards."

Unfortunately, mistakes like this happen all the time, both with public offices and private companies. With better high-tech solutions for maintaining data quality, all organizations could steer clear of the embarrassment that comes with such setbacks.