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The FBI’s Peter Strzok spends 10 hours in open testimony in Congress. Also on the Friday rundown: Granite Staters protest AG Sessions' approach to fighting opioid abuse, and Latino Conservation Week starts on Saturday.

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Putting Lid on Sensitive Medical Information in Commonwealth

A measure pending in the Commonwealth today aims to prevent sensitive medical information from being disclosed, often by explanation of benefit mailings. (Mike Clifford)
A measure pending in the Commonwealth today aims to prevent sensitive medical information from being disclosed, often by explanation of benefit mailings. (Mike Clifford)
March 3, 2016

BOSTON – The State Senate will consider a fix today to prevent insurance bills from leaking confidential patient information that can be of special concern to teens and victims of domestic violence.

They are called explanation of benefit forms, or EOBs for short, and they detail the costs of specific medical procedures.

Alyssa Vangeli, senior health policy manager at the advocacy group Health Care For All (HCFA), says the problem is when these EOBs are mailed to primary beneficiaries they can end up disclosing sensitive medical information that dependent family members have a right to keep confidential.

"Young adults and minors are particularly likely not to seek care for sensitive health care services when they are worried their parents will find out,” she explains. “Breaching confidentially can also worsen violence or abuse, particularly for patients with an abusive partner or family member."

One way the measure would prevent disclosure of confidential information is by requiring insurers to send member-level EOBs to each individual insured dependent, rather than to the primary subscriber.

Vangeli says the insurance industry currently supports the measure and has been involved by helping to craft corrective measures into the legislation.

"The bill would have insurers allow patients to choose their preferred method of receiving EOBs, including at an alternate mailing address or through electronic means,” she states. “EOBs would only provide generic information for sensitive services such as office visit or medical care, rather than more explicit descriptions that could be used against patients."

Dozens of providers, advocacy groups and community-based organizations formed the Patch Alliance in support of the measure. That stands for Protecting Access To Confidential Health.

The measure is sponsored by Sen. Karen Spilka and Rep. Kate Hogan.



Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA