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State Senate Advances HCFA Privacy Legislation

State Senate Advances HCFA Privacy Legislation

February 28, 2016

S. 2138 - An Act to protect Confidential Healthcare

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate advanced S. 2138, An Act to protect access to confidential health care, a key priority for Health Care For All. The bill would fix 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.

Health insurers routinely send out explanation of benefits (EOB) forms detailing the type and cost of medical services received to the primary subscriber of a health insurance plan, not the individual patient who accessed services. Sensitive health information may be disclosed in these forms, violating the basic right to privacy for anyone enrolled as a dependent on another’s policy, such as a young adult, minor, or spouse. S. 2318 would address this problem by allowing patients to choose where and how they receive explanation of benefits (EOB) forms.

During the Senate session, Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka, the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate, spoke passionately in support of the bill’s passage. She explained that patient confidentiality is a fundamental element of the patient-provider relationship and is essential in helping patients feel comfortable accessing care and sharing information with their health care providers. Out of fear that a parent or spouse may see an EOB, young adults or survivors of domestic violence may not seek needed treatment at all, she said.  While some health plans already take steps to ensure confidentiality, this bill would ensure that all health plans do so and in turn would help many individuals across the Commonwealth.

Senator Eldridge, Chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, which had previously given the bill a favorable report, also spoke in support of the bill. He reminded his fellow Senators of the compelling testimony from a number of young people at the bill’s public hearing. He described the bill as an important way to work towards continuing to improve our health care system, as keeping health care information confidential is extremely important to every patient in Massachusetts.

The bill was then advanced on a unanimous voice vote and ordered to a third reading, and will likely taken up for a final vote next week.  We thank both Senator Spilka and Senator Eldridge for their leadership in ensuring critical confidentiality protections for patients in Massachusetts and urge the full Senate to pass this legislation next week.

      -- Alyssa Vangeli & Jessica Imbro