Subduing Medical Snooping

Proposed MA Bill protects patients’ healthcare confidentiality.

Andrew Vontzalides, Scarlet Staff

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, the Massachusetts State Senate voted in favor of a bill that would broadly ensure confidentiality in healthcare for Massachusetts patients. The bill would require health insurance companies to issue “Explanation of Benefits” summaries only and exclusively to the patient, regardless of whether that patient is the primary subscriber.

An Explanation of Benefits (EOB) summary is essentially a statement by a health insurance company to covered individuals explaining which medical treatments and services were paid for on their behalf. Under current law, the EOB is sent to the primary subscriber.

More simply put, such changes would provide patients with more confidentiality in their medical treatment regardless of how their healthcare coverage is structured.

“Patient confidentiality is a foundational element of the patient-provider relationship,” said Senator Karen Spilka, a Democrat from Ashland, Mass. and the lead sponsor of the bill.

“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,” she continued. “This bill is a crucial step to ensure all Massachusetts residents can safely access the health care services they need.”

I am in strong agreement with the Senator and believe this bill, whatever its vices, will result in a decidedly positive change in the Massachusetts health care system.

Though there may be fair arguments in favor of the disclosure of information to the primary subscriber to the healthcare plan, I think there is a good evidence that the benefits of more confidentiality for the individual patient will exceed the loss of information incurred by said primary subscribers.

Those who are not ensured security and confidentiality in medically intimate matters will be less likely to seek treatment for their medical needs. This results in those issues being untreated, thus increasing costs and burdening the individual and our society at large. Therefore, it is essential that we ensure confidentiality in the distribution of EOB summaries to provide for more personal autonomy in private matters.

The Bill (S.2296) has been sent to the House Ways and Means Committee and is expected to pass and to receive a floor vote in the coming months.