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

Patient Confidentiality Protection Legislation Moves Forward

Patient Confidentiality Protection Legislation Moves Forward

January 31, 2016

Headline: Patient Confidentiality Bill Moving Through Statehouse

In a step towards victory for patient privacy, the Massachusetts legislature’s Joint Committees on Financial Services and Health Care Financing reported favorably on one of HCFA’s legislative priorities, “An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare.”  The new bill, S. 2081, sponsored by Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Kate Hogan, is now before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Health insurers routinely send out an Explanation of Benefits (EOB), detailing the type and cost of medical services received, to the primary subscriber each time an enrollee on the plan accesses care. Sensitive health information is frequently disclosed in an EOB, violating the basic right to privacy for anyone enrolled as a dependent on another's health plan, such as a young adult, minor, or spouse. Young adults and minors are particularly likely to not seek care for sensitive services when worried that their parents will find out.

The bill would remove 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.

The bill's legislative progress was covered by the AP, and appeared at a number of state news sites:

Sen. Jamie Eldridge, co-chairman of the committee, says the bill is particularly important given that more young people are obtaining health insurance through their parents under President Obama’s health care law.

The Acton Democrat says the state must be vigilant in making sure that all patients’ health information remains confidential.

Democratic Sen. Karen Spilka says victims of abuse and minors are often reluctant to seek certain types of treatment, fearing that their abuser or parent will learn details.

Last July, the committee heard testimony in support of the bill from patients, health care providers, and members of the HCFA-led Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care (PATCH) Alliance.

If your Senator is on the Senate Ways and Means Committee (see list here), please contact them in support of the bill.

  -- Jessica Imbro