(a) Except as provided in subdivision (i), all types of information, whether written or oral, concerning a person, made or kept by any public officer or agency in connection with the administration of any provision of this chapter, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520) and for which a grant-in-aid is received by this state from the United States government pursuant to Title XIX of the Social Security Act shall be confidential, and shall not be open to examination other than for purposes directly connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program. However, in the context of a petition for the appointment of a conservator for a person with respect to whom this information is made or kept, and in the context of a criminal prosecution for a violation of Section 368 of Penal Code with respect to such a person, all of the following shall apply:
A public officer or employee of any such agency may answer truthfully, at any proceeding related to the petition or prosecution, when asked if he or she is aware of information that he or she believes is related to the legal mental capacity of that aid recipient or the need for a conservatorship for that aid recipient. If the officer or employee states that he or she is aware of this information, the court may order the officer or employee to testify about his or her observations and to disclose any relevant agency records if the court has an other independent reason to believe that the officer or employee has information that would facilitate the resolution of the matter.
(b) Except as provided in this section, and to the extent permitted by federal law or regulation, all information about applicants and recipients as provided for in subdivision (a) to be safeguarded includes, but is not limited to, names and addresses, medical services provided, social and economic conditions or circumstances, agency evaluation of personal information, and medical data, including diagnosis and past history of disease or disability.
(c) Purposes directly connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520) encompass those administrative activities and responsibilities in which the department and its agents are required to engage to insure effective program operations. These activities include, but are not limited to: establishing eligibility and methods of reimbursement; determining the amount of medical assistance; providing services for recipients; conducting or assisting an investigation, prosecution, or civil or criminal proceeding related to the administration of the Medi-Cal program; and conducting or assisting a legislative investigation or audit related to the administration of the Medi-Cal program.
(d) Any officer, agent, or employee of the department or of any public agency shall provide the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the State Auditor with any and all the information described in subdivision (b) within a reasonable period of time as determined by the committee in consultation with the department, after receipt of a request from the committee approved by a majority of the members of the committee. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the State Auditor may use that information only for the purpose of investigating or auditing the administration of the Medi-Cal program, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520), and shall not use that information for commercial or political purposes. In any case where disclosure of information is authorized by this section, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee or the State Auditor shall not disclose the identity of any applicant or recipient, except in the case of a criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of the Medi-Cal program.
(e) The access to information provided in subdivision (d) shall be permitted only to the extent and under the conditions provided by federal law and regulations governing the release of such information.
(f) The department may make rules and regulations governing the custody, use, and preservation of all records, papers, files, and communications pertaining to the administration of the laws relating to the Medi-Cal program, Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200), or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520). The rules and regulations shall be binding on all departments, officials, and employees of the state, or of any political subdivision of the state and may provide for giving information to or exchanging information with agencies, public, or political subdivisions of the state, and may provide for giving information to or exchanging information with agencies, public or private, which are engaged in planning, providing, or securing such services for or in behalf of recipients or applicants; and for making case records available for research purposes, provided that that research will not result in the disclosure of the identity of applicants for or recipients of those services.
(g) Upon request, the department shall release to the negotiator established pursuant to Article 2.6 (commencing with Section 14081) all computer tapes and any modifications thereto, including paid claims, connected with the administration of the Medi-Cal program which are in the possession or under the control of the department, including tapes prepared prior to the effective date of this section.
To ensure compliance with federal law and regulations, the department shall make the minimum necessary modifications to its computer tapes prior to releasing the tapes to the negotiator in order to assure the confidentiality of the identity of all applicants for, or recipients of, those services. The department shall not make any modifications to paid claims tapes that affect information regarding beneficiaries' aid categories or counties of origin.
(h) Any person who knowingly releases or possesses confidential information concerning persons who have applied for or who have been granted any form of Medi-Cal benefits or benefits under Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 14200) or Chapter 8.7 (commencing with Section 14520) for which state or federal funds are made available in violation of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(i) (1) To the extent federal funds are made available from the United States Department of Agriculture, the department may do both of the following:
(A) To the extent permitted by federal law, exercise its option under Section 1396a(a)(7)(B) of Title 42 of the United States Code, in coordination with the State Department of Education, to exchange the information necessary to perform direct verification of the eligibility of children for free or reduced price meals.
(B) To the extent permitted by federal law, in coordination with the State Department of Education, exchange the information necessary to perform direct certification for enrolling children to receive free or reduced price meals.
(2) To the extent permitted by state and federal law, the department and the State Department of Education may review the data only for the purposes of improving the effectiveness of the data matches made pursuant to Sections 49561 and 49562 of the Education Code.
(Amended by Stats. 2008, Ch. 673, Sec. 4.)