The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, took effect in April 2003, and through October, the Health and Human Services Department had fielded 47,632 allegations of patient privacy violations. Of those, 9,501 were found to be valid.
And how many criminal prosecutions occurred? The department did not answer that question for the Sun, but some experts put the number as low as five. Others say it is fewer than 20. Most were connected to another crime, usually identity theft — such as the case of a Washington man who worked at a cancer-treatment center. He pleaded guilty in 2004 to stealing patient information to obtain credit cards.