Massachusetts bill seeks to protect patients’ health care confidentiality

Bill sent to the House for consideration

BOSTON (WWLP)—The Senate is moving a bill forward to protect patients’ access to confidential health care. It would require insurers to send statements of medical services a person receives to the patients rather than the insurance subscribers.

Many health insurers currently send summaries detailing the type and cost of medical services a person receives to the primary subscriber on an insurance plan. But some lawmakers are concerned that patients, such as minors, young adults, or women may forego certain treatments for fear that a parent or spouse may see sensitive health information.

The Senate passed legislation Wednesday, known as the PATCH Act, that would require insurers to give this information directly to patients.

West Springfield State Senator Jim Welch supports the bill. In a statement to 22News, he said, in part: “Lacking full privacy when making medical decisions, especially concerning health issues that can unfortunately come with stigmas, can be just as strong a barrier to health care as the availability of providers or the cost of treatment.”

Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts’ President and CEO Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak said such a law would close a loophole in patient privacy protections.

“Whether it’s something that we provide, like birth control or sexually transmitted infections testing, or diabetes care,” Childs-Roshak said. “There are so many different things that patients seek care for that really should be confidential.”

The bill now moves onto the House for consideration.