KeepHealthCare.ORG – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signs law improving patient privacy in health insurance
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed a bill providing people with more privacy from their health insurance companies.
The new law, the so-called PATCH Act, seeks to ensure that patients have the ability to request that a summary of payment form for their health insurance be sent directly to them, not to the policyholder of their insurance.
The acronym stands for Protecting Access to Confidential Health Care.
Summary of payment forms typically describe the type and cost of care. The legislation could help an adult who is on their parent’s or spouse’s health insurance but does not want their parent or spouse to know what kind of health care they received.
For example, a person might not want a family member to know about their reproductive health care, mental health treatment or any other service.
Today, some people may pay out of pocket for health care even if they have insurance to avoid having paperwork sent to the insurance policyholder.
The new law will let patients opt out of receiving a summary payment form if no money is due, decide what physical address or email address the form should be sent to, and allow the patient to receive the form rather than the policyholder. Certain sensitive health care services would not be identified on the form.
“Patient confidentiality is a foundational element of the patient-provider relationship,” said Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, the lead sponsor of the bill, after the Senate passed the bill in February. “Unfortunately, young adults, minors or victims of abuse are often reluctant to seek certain types of treatment, fearing that their personal health information will be disclosed to a parent or spouse.”
Amy Rosenthal, executive director of Health Care for All, said that without the new law, confidential health information may be inadvertently disclosed on a summary of benefits, “violating the basic right to privacy for anyone enrolled as a dependent on another’s policy.”