Patient’s Guide to HIPAA – Basic Rights: Does the Right to Receive a Confidential Communication Apply to Health Plans?

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You are reading the Patient’s Guide to HIPAA, FAQ 27

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FAQ 27: Does the Right to Receive a Confidential Communication Apply to Health Plans?

Yes, but the rule is a bit different. To make a request to a health plan, the individual must clearly state that the disclosure of all or part of the information could endanger the patient. The plan may require that a request contain a statement that disclosure could endanger the patient. The plan can demand a written request.

It is not apparent, however, that the patient must identify what the harm is. The statement that disclosure could endanger the patient seems to be enough. Perhaps the most likely example of endangerment is a threat of domestic violence. A battered spouse may not want information about her location or activities to be accessible by her batterer.

We can’t be sure about everything that might constitute endangerment. We suggest taking the position that it is up to the patient to decide what it means. If you say that disclosure could be potentially endangering or merely embarrassing, that’s enough to convince us. If a disclosure to the wrong person might persuade you to stop seeking treatment, we would argue that also constitutes endangerment. We can’t predict how plans will respond, but we emphasize that plans must accommodate reasonable requests. Asking to send mail to an alternate address (physical or email) strikes us as reasonable. Asking for phone calls only to your cell phone and not to your home phone also strikes us as reasonable. Asking for messages to be sent by carrier pigeon will not be viewed as reasonable by anyone.

 

 

Roadmap: Patient’s Guide to HIPAA: Part 2: Basic Patient Rights: Right to Request Confidential Communications (FAQ 27 of 65)

Jump to list of FAQs 1-65 | See all of Part 2