Health insurance dependents may face privacy struggles

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Insurers share private medical information with policyholders about family members on the plan.

The Affordable Care Act is now allowing adult children to maintain their coverage under their parents’ health insurance plans, which has offered a tremendous advantage and has notably increased the coverage over that age group, but it does have one notable disadvantage.

That concern, which many young adults are discovering, is privacy.

Over three million young adults have now regained health insurance coverage because of the new law, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. The struggle that is being discovered is that while parents are required to provide consent for the majority of treatments, procedures, and other types of medical care received by their children when those kids are younger than 18 years, this is not the case for young adults.

Dependents on parents’ health insurance plans are finding their care details are being shared.

The plan dependents under the age of 18 can consent to some tests on their own. For example, some states allow them to obtain certain potentially sensitive services such as STI/SHealth Insurance newsTD tests, as well as contraception, prenatal care, baby delivery, and mental health and substance abuse outpatient treatments. Furthermore, patients over the age of 18 can consent to any medical care they need.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule, which has been in effect for ten years, states that a person’s medical records cannot be disclosed without authorization. However, what many adult dependents are discovering about health insurance coverage is that there is a catch. When the providers are securing payment for services through a policy, the information regarding those services can be revealed to the policyholder.

This can cause problems. The communication between medical service provider and the policyholder is important to make sure that fraud and identity theft are controlled, and to make sure that all of the parties are covering the appropriate amount of the bill. However, that bill doesn’t necessarily go to the individual who received the medical care. Though this is the case in some states, it is not the standard across the country.

Therefore, depending on the state law, the health insurance bill for medical services of a dependent adult could be sent to that person’s parents, revealing the nature of the services that were administered. It is recommended that dependents with such coverage be aware of the nature of the privacy regulations in order to avoid unwanted surprises.

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