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About 23,000 WNY BlueCross BlueShield members at risk in Anthem breach

About 23,000 BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York members may be victims of the hacker attack on the health insurance giant Anthem, according to the Buffalo-based insurer.

The local BlueCross BlueShield, which is part of HealthNow New York, is a licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, as is Anthem. The two insurers are independent businesses, but the attack that breached Anthem’s computer system and the personal information of tens of millions of its customers and employees also put at risk members of other BlueCross BlueShield licensees who received services from Anthem in an out-of-town market.

HealthNow previously had said the breach likely affected a small portion of its membership, but the insurer did not release a figure until Friday.

The roughly 23,000 members make up a little under 3 percent of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York’s active and former customers; the insurer’s current membership is about 800,000.

Only BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York members who received treatment in markets outside the Buffalo area, where Anthem is the Blues licensee, are at risk.

They include members traveling out of town who required emergency or other medical care; people who live out of town but receive their coverage through a “guest membership,” such as college students on their parents’ plans; and companies that are headquartered in the Buffalo area, and are clients of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, but have employees in other communities.

Members who used their plans in non-Anthem, out-of-town markets are not at risk.

Anthem announced this week that personal information dating back to 2004 on 78.8 million people, primarily its own members in the 14 states where the insurer does business, was taken by hackers.

No credit card information was taken, according to BlueCross BlueShield, and there is no indication that sensitive medical data was targeted or taken by the hackers. Anthem said some names, birth dates and Social Security numbers, among other information, may have been taken.

BlueCross BlueShield in the next week will contact by mail members who were affected by the breach, and Anthem over the next few weeks also will notify the members on how to enroll in free credit-monitoring and identification-protection services.

“We want to provide a sense of security to our valued members and the decision to communicate to them prior to Anthem’s notification was something we felt very strongly about,” stated Chris Leardini, senior vice president of operations for the Buffalo-based insurer. “Although our systems were not breached, the cyber attack did affect a very small percentage of our current and former members who live in or have received care in one of Anthem’s markets.”

BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York members who want to know whether their data is at risk can call Anthem’s toll-free hotline at (877) 263-7995 or visit www.anthemfacts.com.

email: swatson@buffnews.com