A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Globe lead editorial supports HCFA bill: “Medical privacy plan offer sensible remedy”

Globe lead editorial supports HCFA bill: “Medical privacy plan offer sensible remedy”

August 19, 2015

Globe editorial in support of EOB confidentiality bill

Today, the Boston Globe added its voice to the chorus of supporters for the bill currently up for consideration in the state legislature that would strengthen confidentiality protections for patients who are dependents on someone else’s health insurance plan. 

The bill is “An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare” (S.557 and H.871), sponsored by Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Kate Hogan. This bill fixes a crucial barrier to accessing health care by ensuring that when multiple people are on the same insurance plan, confidential health care information is not shared with anyone other than the patient.

After you get care, insurers send out documents, called Explanation of Benefits forms (EOBs), with details about the cost and type of services or treatments provided, as well as what is covered. The form is sent to the main policy subscriber, even when the medical information relates to other patients covered by the same plan, like an adult child up to age 26. As a result, the forms can disclose private medical information that should be kept between the insurer and patient.  This practice, the Globe affirms, is “at odds with the fundamental principle of privacy.”  

Currently, there is no standard way insurance companies in Massachusetts deal with patient privacy and the confidentiality of information. The bill requires insurers to send forms to the patient who received the care, rather than to the subscriber, and only if money is owed (details are here).

The Globe concludes by noting that the principals of health care transparency and patient privacy can both be achieved without sacrificing confidentiality. Health Care For All is encouraged by the tide of positive support for the bill and believes, as succinctly stated by Rep. Hogan, its passage would “alleviate fears of being punished, traumatized, or stigmatized for health care decisions.” 

HCFA leads a broad coalition called the Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care (PATCH) Alliance in support of the bill (see the PATCH website here). Some 40 members (see the list) include provider, advocacy, and community-based organizations, particularly those concerned with mental health care and reproductive health. Other groups active in the coalition include organizations serving survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, transgender health groups, and HIV/AIDS service organizations.

The full Globe editorial can be found here.