American Journal of Law & Medicine

HIPAA: regulation of theft from healthcare programs is within Congress's Commerce Clause authority.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a statute regulating theft or embezzlement from local medical service providers was a proper exercise of Congress's Commerce Clause authority since it was rationally related to an "activity bearing a clear and significant relation to interstate commerce." (2) Appellant Ruth Whited worked as a receptionist for the Back Mountain Chiropractic Center (Center), where she was responsible for collecting payment from the Center's patients. Patients commonly paid by signing over a check from Blue Cross, their insurance provider, to the Center. Whited deposited more than fifty of those checks into her personal account between November 1996 and November 1997.

In 2001, the federal government indicted Whited on one count of theft or embezzlement in connection with healthcare, in violation of 18 U.S.C. [section] 669. (3) The relevant portion of section 669 states that "[w]hoever knowingly and willfully embezzles, steals, or otherwise without authority converts to the use of any person other than the rightful owner, or intentionally misapplies any of the moneys, funds, securities, premiums, credits, property, or other assets of a health care benefit program, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both. …

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