Last week Health Care For All (HCFA) celebrated a tremendous victory along with the many organizations that make up the Protecting Access to Confidential Healthcare (PATCH) Alliance when Governor Baker signed into law the PATCH Act, which advances patient confidentiality protections.
Alyssa Vangeli, HCFA’s Associate Director of Policy and Government Relations, has been leading the PATCH Alliance since its inception close to four years ago. The PATCH Alliance, a group composed of 40+ provider, advocacy and community based organizations, organized support for the bill along with the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
Alyssa Vangeli, left, and Amy Rosenthal, HCFA's Executive Director, right, wait for the PATCH Act signing ceremony to begin.
The PATCH Act (An Act To Protect Access to Confidential Healthcare, S. 2296) ensures that when multiple people are on the same insurance plan, confidential health care information is not shared with anyone other than the patient. Health plans typically send a Summary of Payments (SOP) form detailing the type and cost of medical services received to the primary policyholder each time an enrollee on the plan accesses care. The SOP form is meant to explain how and when an insurance plan is being used and is not a medical bill. In some instances, the SOP form may contain information on sensitive health care services and can unintentionally compromise patient confidentiality for anyone enrolled as a dependent on another person’s health insurance policy, such as a young adult or spouse.
The PATCH Act closes this privacy loophole and gives patients the option to receive SOP forms directly or online after receiving sensitive heath services, rather than have these SOP forms go to the health plan policyholder. The bill also allows patients to opt-out of receiving SOPs if no payment is due. By ensuring that sensitive health care information remains confidential, patients will not have to risk delaying or forgoing needed care, or in extreme cases, risk being traumatized, stigmatized or harmed for accessing services, out of fear that their confidential health care information will be shared.
The PATCH Act waiting to be signed by Governor Baker before the start of the event.
A number of PATCH Alliance member organizations were given the opportunity to stand with Governor Baker for the ceremonial signing of this critical bill on April 2, 2018.
Governor Baker signs the PATCH Act into law.
Alyssa was then given the opportunity to say a few words and thanked the lead sponsors of the bill, Representative Hogan and Senator Spilka, for their incredible leadership and perseverance to make this bill a reality. She also spoke to the strength of the diversity and breadth of PATCH Alliance members, which include provider and advocacy organizations focused on care related to domestic violence, sexual assault, mental health, substance use disorders, sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ health, among other potentially sensitive services.
Alyssa Vangeli, HCFA's Associate Director of Policy and Government Relations, speaks during the signing ceremony.
The signing ceremony capped years of hard work and careful negotiations among legislators and interested groups. Most of the provisions of the bill will take effect later this summer, with one delayed until next year. HCFA will closely monitor the implementation of the law to make sure that its provisions are being applied by all insurers.
Passage of the PATCH Act demonstrates the power of HCFA and our partners to effect change by listening to people raising on-the-ground problems, building broad coalitions, and working through the political process.
Members of the PATCH Alliance take a final photo with Governor Baker at the conclusion of the signing ceremony.
-Davis Jackson and Alyssa Vangeli