Bill Aiming To Better Protect Privacy Of Patients On Others' Insurance Plans Passes House

The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The House on Wednesday took a step supporters said would improve patient privacy, voting 139-14 to pass a bill that would require insurers to send explanation of benefit forms directly to adult patients instead of to the plan subscriber.

Rep. Kate Hogan, the House chair of the Public Health Committee, said sensitive health information is "frequently disclosed" in summary of payment or explanation of benefit forms, which she said violates the "basic right of privacy" for anyone enrolled as a dependent on another person's plan.

"The disclosure of confidential health information affects all people, but particularly adult spouses covered as dependents on a partner's plan and young adults 18 to 26 who are insured on their parent's or guardian's plan," Hogan said. "We know that maintaining confidentiality is critically important for patients seeking care related to sexual and reproductive health, domestic violence or sexual assault, and mental health or substance abuse disorders."

Before passing the bill, the House tacked on an amendment from Lakeville Republican Rep. Keiko Orrall stating, "Nothing in this act shall supersede any general or special law related to the informed consent of minors."

Hogan, the only lawmaker to speak on the bill, said it does not change any laws dealing with minors' consent to care or parents' access to information about the care of their minor children.

Twenty Republicans joined the chamber's Democrats in voting for the bill, while the other 14 Republicans voted against.

The Senate already passed a version of the bill (S 2296), and final votes in both branches are needed before it moves to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature.


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