Tuesday, 21 November, 2017

Aetna Exposes HIV Statuses of Thousands of Customers

Aetna mailings may have exposed members' HIV status Aetna Exposed Customers Taking HIV Meds, Legal Groups Say
Sammy Stanley | 26 August, 2017, 01:27

Upon their July 31 investigation, Aetna "confirmed that the vendor handling the mailing had used a window envelope, and, in some cases, the letter could have shifted within the envelope in a way that allowed personal health information to be viewable through the window".

The legal organizations sent a cease-and-desist letter to Aetna.

Aetna is facing backlash after mailing letters that may have revealed some of its members' HIV status through the envelope.

Despite calling the incident "unacceptable" and saying they were "ensuring something like this never happens again", the CT company insinuated in a letter it sent to to affected customers on August 2 that the blame should fall on a vendor that chose the incorrect envelope.

Healthcare insurer Aetna revealed people's HIV status by mailing documentation about HIV medicine to people in an envelope with a large address window.

The Legal Action Center said that while medical advances may have helped transform HIV into a chronic yet manageable condition, there was still a widespread stigma against people living with HIV, leading to discrimination and violence in the workplace, the home and the school system.

The groups sent a demand letter to Aetna on behalf of policyholders who had their personal health information exposed, telling Aetna to end the transparent letters and make a correction plan.

Aetna last month breached the privacy of some of its customers with HIV when the CT health-insurance company sent a letter with instructions on how to fill prescriptions for HIV medications.

"Aetna's privacy violation devastated people whose neighbours and family learned their intimate health information", Sally Friedman, legal director of the Legal Action Center in New York City, said in a statement.

The incident could violate the Privacy Rule of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires "health care providers and organizations, as well as their business associates, to develop and follow procedures that ensure the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI) when it is transferred, received, handled, or shared".

"We've had a number of people tell us they had chosen not to disclose their HIV status to family members - but this is how their family members found out", she explained. "You need to fix this".

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