We all get lots of “junk mail” in the post box and I accept that. It helps keep the postal service afloat. But when my dog starts getting mail, it is entirely another story. Especially when it says she has been “selected to participate in a FREE Marijuana pain relief trial for men” from the National Pain Relief Center of Amsterdam (no return mail address or web site — just an 888 number).
First, she is not a male. Second, she cannot smoke. Third, she is a dog. In addition, has no public profile from voter’s registration, driver’s license, property title, etc. Silly aside, most concerning is that mail to a dog is correctly addressed to her/my residence. I get it, annoying as it is, that people/companies sell mailing lists. But, for my dog to be on such a list, it had to come from a prescription supplier that knows she is on arthritis pain medication, thus a “target candidate” for medical marijuana.
Okay, for humans, such information is protected by HIPAA, regulations. Perhaps not so for pets. However, this morning, while walking said dog, I saw the same postcard had been delivered to and fallen out of my human neighbor’s curbside post box.
HIPAA applies to organizations and individuals who submit claims electronically; since the vast majority of pharmacies and pharmacists submit claims electronically, they are covered entities under the HIPAA privacy and security rules. Covered entities have a number of legal obligations under both rules.
My concern is, the mailing list from which my dog’s name came, had to originate from 1) a vet that has treated her, 2) an online pet medicine supplier or 3) the only local national chain pharmacy store around the corner that has filled her prescriptions. If I make the leap that the neighbor, also around the corner from the same pharmacy, fell onto the same mailing list by the same method (not from sharing our vet), my concern becomes alarm.
That national chain pharmacy is under a legal obligation to protect prescriptions, and this mailing makes it obvious that my pet, human or not, should also have been protected, and by that virtue, I should have been protected, as her legal guardian. This mailing obviously was not intended for non-humans, because my dog is unable to respond tall now with the personal reservation code. It was not directed to “her owner” and, I do not intend to do it for her!
Disclaimer: As submitted to the Arizona Daily Star.