(Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
A U.S. House committee is investigating whether Internal Revenue Service agents improperly seized private medical records. The IRS is already being sued for the seizure of 60 million medical records, which is alleged to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment's Search and Seizure Clause.
In March 2011, IRS agents used a search warrant to seize the medical records from an unnamed California health care provider in its pursuit of a tax violation by a former employee of the company, according to Courthouse News Service. The suit, filed March 11, 2013, claims that the search warrant did not authorize the seizure of medical records of those who were not suspects in the case. More than 60 million medical records of more than 10 million Americans were seized, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that the records "contained intimate and private information" such as "psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, [and] sexual or drug treatment."
The suit also alleges that the IRS agents involved in the raid "threatened to 'rip' the servers containing the medical data out of the building" if the records were not handed over.
Along with the lawsuit, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is investigating the allegations. In a Tuesday letter to acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, committee members ask for specific information relating to the case.
The letter notes that they have particular concern about the allegations given that the IRS will have an "increased role in implementing health care under" the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
The allegations come at a time when the IRS is already under fire for the misuse of taxpayer dollars, the harassment of conservative, evangelical and pro-life groups, and as the public is debating personal privacy over revelations that government agencies are collecting private phone records and Internet data.