Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Your health care should be between you and your doctor. Legislation is pending that is supported by the HCFA-led Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care (PATCH) Alliance. The bill, An Act to protect access to confidential healthcare (S. 2138, sponsored by Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Kate Hogan), passed the Massachusetts Senate in March, 2016.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.

Patient confidentiality is an essential aspect of the patient-provider relationship. Without confidentiality, patients are understandably reluctant to communicate openly with their health care providers and may delay or forgo accessing needed care, especially if they fear being stigmatized or harmed as a result. Despite this, 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 may be 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, partner, or spouse.

Through this bill, the PATCH Alliance is looking to establish a consistent mechanism for ensuring confidentiality for EOBs, as current practice varies across plans and is confusing for both consumers and health care providers. Without consistent mechanisms across all insurance plans, health care providers are not able to advise their patients about how to confidentially access health care. As a result, many patients will choose not to access needed health care when they do not want that information shared with the subscriber. Health insurers must help prioritize and protect patient privacy in all communications.

You can help Health Care For All push for policies that help consumer access confidential and quality health care by donating here.