MEDICAL PRIVACY: New York Proposes Regulations
Within the next month, New York state plans to adopt regulations that will prevent insurance companies from sharing medical records with affiliates or third parties unless consumers provide written consent, the New York Times reports. The laws, which will be implemented by the state's Insurance Department, are expected to be adopted in the next few weeks and will go into effect next July. The regulations were created to comply with a federal law making it easier for banks, insurance companies and financial brokerage firms to affiliate or merge. Sparking some privacy concerns, the federal legislation also requires states to regulate insurers' sharing of consumer information. Under the proposed New York state regulations, consumers must provide written consent to have their information disclosed. The consent would be valid for 24 months, after which time consumers would have to sign a new consent agreement. However, insurance companies would be allowed to share health information without consent with law enforcement agencies investigating fraud or other crimes. New York is currently one of 35 states with no personal information privacy protections in their insurance regulations, according to Kevin Rampe, general counsel for the Insurance Department. However, the state does have laws restricting insurance companies' release of consumers' HIV/AIDS status, while other laws ban insurance records from being used to locate victims of domestic violence. The proposed regulations have drawn "mixed" reactions from consumer advocates, with some praising the law for the control it gives consumers over their health information. Others, however, say that the provisions regarding customer consent are unclear and customers would not know "when or why" their information was being shared (Fried, New York Times, 10/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.