Have Young Adults Given Up their Medical Privacy for Free or Low-Cost Insurance?

Posted August 15, 2016 by Stacy Bolzenius

Have Young Adults Given Up Their Medical Privacy for Free or Low-Cost Insurance?

The high cost of health insurance made it necessary for young adults to fight for the ability to stay on their parent’s policies past the age of 18. Their request was granted when the Affordable Care Act was enacted, allowing young adults to continue coverage under their parents’ coverage umbrella until the age of 26, even if the adult child marries or moves out on their own.

Sounds great, right? Although it’s great that more young people are getting affordable health care, it does have its disadvantages. The main concern is that those who choose to remain on these policies may be giving up their right to medical privacy.

HIPPA Laws Usurped By Insurance Inquiries

According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), no doctor, pharmacy, hospital or insurer may legally disclose medical information about a patient without that patient’s approval. This federally mandated law should be enough to protect a young adults’ medical privacy, but it isn’t, according to many critics.

In most states, every time someone on a policy makes a claim, the policyholder has the right to request details regarding that claim. In many cases, an explanation of benefits is sent to the insurer even without being requested. This can tip them off as to what type of medical care the people on that policy are receiving.

This may seem innocuous at first, but the implications are serious. This means a parent could simply call the insurance company to find out if their adult children are sick, receiving birth control and more.

According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), no doctor, pharmacy or insurer may legally disclose medical information about a patient without that patient's approval.

Can Young Adults Protect Their Privacy?

While it is possible for a young adult patient to ask their insurance provider not to send an explanation of benefits to the policyholder, in most cases, the company is not required to honor that request unless the patient specifically tells them that by disclosing the information they could be put in a dangerous situation.

Some states, including California, Washington, Oregon and Maryland, have instituted their own laws to strengthen the federal government’s HIPPA regulations, thus giving young adults more medical privacy.

The Dangers of Giving Out Sensitive Information

There are a number of reasons why some young adults want to keep their parents from obtaining sensitive medical information about their women’s heath care. Some may be hesitant to share their personal information with their parents, especially in regards to birth control, pregnancies and substance abuse treatment.

Until more safeguards are in place to protect this sensitive information, many fear that young adults will steer clear of the doctors office, putting their health and well-being in jeopardy simply to keep their private information from making its way to their parents.

Of course, many parents are not looking to snoop into their adult children’s private lives, but may request information to help determine cost sharing. Denying them access to this information can cause some parents to simply drop their adult children from their policy, leaving them completely uninsured. This can create even more problems for the young adult seeking care.

Understanding your patient’s rights as well as the law in regards to who may obtain medical information via their insurance provider can help you better safeguard your patient’s privacy. Learn more about patient privacy rights and other aspects of women’s health by registering for our live conferences.