Insurance companies sometimes inadvertently disclose information about one family member’s health care services to other family members on the same policy. In many cases, people will not use their health insurance—or will forgo seeking care at all—because of the threat that someone in their household will find out their personal medical information.

This is especially true for minors, young adults still on their parents’ insurance plan, and people in domestic violence situations, who may be subjected to dangerous consequences if their personal health care information is disclosed to others. Without assurances that they can receive care confidentially, many of these patients do not have access to the health care services they need, such as testing or treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, abortion or contraceptive services, substance abuse treatment, and mental health services.

The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner has been working on updated rules to help protect people’s health care confidentiality. Legal Voice and our allies submitted comments on these rules, requesting further clarification in a number of areas, as well as greater protections for survivors of intimate partner violence.

We have a strong interest in protecting patients’ rights to privacy in health care information and their rights to comprehensive, quality health services. We look forward to a continued discussion with the OIC to ensure the rules achieve their intended result.

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