AMA Promotes Strengthening Confidentiality for Patients Insured as Dependents

DALLAS - Nov. 10, 2014 - Health insurance companies should strengthen their privacy policies to prevent the potential disclosure of sensitive medical information outside of the confidential patient-physician relationship, according to new policy adopted by the nation’s physicians at the American Medical Association’s Interim Meeting.

Health insurers routinely issue claim processing forms - known as an explanation of benefits (EOB) - directly to the primary policyholder containing the payment status for any medical services provided to individuals covered under the policy. The standard practice of issuing these notices directly to the primary policyholder may disclose sensitive information about the medical care of other covered individuals.

“The disclosure of potentially sensitive medical information on standard insurance forms has become more of a concern as the Affordable Care Act allows an increasing number of young adults to obtain health insurance as dependents of their parents, guardians, spouses or domestic partners,” said AMA President Robert M. Wah, M.D. “The AMA’s new policy promotes a multipronged approach to protect the privacy interests of patients and preserve the financial interests of policyholders.”

Maintaining confidentiality is especially important to patients seeking treatment for sensitive issues such as mental health, substance use, sexual or reproductive health and intimate partner violence. It is widely acknowledged that a lack of, or perceived lack of, confidentiality is a primary factor inhibiting adolescents and young adults from seeking medical care for sensitive issues.

To promote confidential access to health services, the AMA believes that health insurers should be required to:

  • Develop a method of listing health care services on EOB forms that would preserve confidentiality for all insured individuals;
  • Communicate clear procedures to all insured dependents on how to request confidential communications; and
  • Create privacy protections for all insured individuals on electronic information that is available through patient portals maintained by health insurers.

The new AMA policy encourages physicians to inform patients that they can request confidential communications with a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rights Request Form. The AMA has developed a model HIPAA Privacy Rights Request Form, available online, for physicians to provide to their patients.

The AMA also advises physicians to collaborate with parents or guardians to develop individualized treatment plans for minors aged 12-17 that sets expectations for a transition toward increased medical privacy as the minor ages into adulthood.

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Media Contact:
Robert J. Mills
AMA Media & Editorial
(312) 464-5970
robert.mills@ama-assn.org

About the AMA
The American Medical Association is the premier national organization dedicated to empowering the nation’s physicians to continually provide safer, higher quality, and more efficient care to patients and communities. For more than 165 years the AMA has been unwavering in its commitment to using its unique position and knowledge to shape a healthier future for America. For more information, visit ama-assn.org.

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About the American Medical Association (AMA) Since 1847 the American Medical Association has had one mission: to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. Today, the core strategy used to carry out this mission is our concerted effort to help doctors help patients. We do this by uniting physicians nationwide to work on the most important professional and public health issues. In 2011 our strategic plan focuses on five areas that encompass the central elements in health system reform: Access to care Quality of care Cost of health care Prevention and wellness Payment models Vist the AMA's 2011 strategic plan at: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/strategic-issues.page These topics represent the major areas of emphasis in which the AMA carries out its mission in the current environment. Our proposed actions are not only directed at solving reform issues at the policy level, but also at helping physicians adapt to—and adopt—changes in a productive way. To learn more about how the AMA is moving medicine forward, read our flyer at: http://www.ama-assn.org/resources/doc/about-ama/moving-medicine-forward.pdf.

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