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Who has ACCESS to my health information
Aug 17, 2012

This is a follow-up to a previous question. Obviously if you are using your insurance card for doctor visits and prescription medications, your health insurance company will know you are being treated for HIV. I know this is a crazy question, but does that mean your employer could potentially find out that information. Also, do life insurance companies have access to HIV test results that are reported to the health department and/ or the CDC. I am very concerned about keeping my status confidential. Thank You

Response from Mr. Chambers

The strictest laws regarding confidentiality are those regarding medical records, and most states make HIV status even more confidential which is why a separate release is required in most states to get that information.

Yes, insurance companies know about a claimant's HIV status from the type of medical bills submitted, but they have no legal right to pass that information on to employers, so doing so would be a breach of law. Large businesses are able to see the claim details from their insurance plan, but they are not allowed to know the specific medical condition, nor release information such as the names of medication or types of lab tests that may reveal the medical condition.

I wish I could guarantee that an employer could never discover an employee's medical condition through insurance. However, with small groups where the business owner is friends with the insurance agent and the agent has enough contact within the insurance company, leaks may occur, but they are very rare.

Conversely, very large employers are self-funded and simply hire insurance companies or third party administrators to process the claims. Those claim documents are all the property of the employer, however, they typically know enough about confidentiality laws and the dangers of "appearing" to discriminate usually causes them to set up firewalls so that detailed medical insurance does not cross from the claims processor to the employer.

In the vast majority of cases where HIV status becomes known within a workplace, the infected employee disclosed the status him or herself to a confidant who then let the information spread. If you are really concerned about this, make sure that no one in your employment and no one who knows others there is told.

Insurance companies do not have access to medical records of health departments of government agencies that track HIV and its transmission.

Insurance companies do operate a collective called the Medical Information Bureau, but that only handles applications (and the accompanying health statements) of people applying for life insurance. They also operate a Disability Index to track persons claiming disability from insurance companies, however, it is my understanding that information is coded and the concern to protect confidentiality is so important they only call HIV a "blood condition."

Good luck, Jacques

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