April 25, 2019

Legislation to Protect Domestic Violence Survivors Passes State Senate

HARTFORD, CT – Yesterday, the State Senate voted by a tally of 18-12 to advance legislation which allows insured individuals to keep information about the healthcare they received privately. State Senator Will Haskell (D-Westport), who voted in favor, said this legislation will protect domestic violence survivors.

“Victims of domestic violence deserve privacy and confidentiality when they access crucial healthcare services,” said Sen. Haskell. “A victim whose abuser holds their health insurance policy can be at risk if they seek help and their abuser finds out through documents. By asking for this information to be kept confidential, they can seek help without being exposed to any possible reaction from their abuser. We all need to stand up against abuse; this bill does just that.”

Senate Bill 977, “An Act Concerning Explanation of Benefits (EOB)” has been supported across the state, including by Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) which sees this as a vital tool to allow victims of violence to seek care without fear of retaliation. When the abuser is the policy holder, it presents a deterrent to domestic violence survivors seeking care over fear the policy holder will be alerted to their medical use. SB 977 will keep this information confidential to the patient, enabling them to seek care without fear of retaliation. Ashley Starr Frechette, the Director of Health Professional Outreach at CCADV provided public testimony on SB 977 and said this is crucial legislation for protecting survivors.

“One in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives,” said Frechette. “Victims of domestic violence suffer from health consequences related to domestic violence at an incredibly high rate, and unfortunately breeches in patient confidentiality often occur through EOBs and other methods of communication generated by health plans and insurers. This violates basic rights to privacy and puts victims of domestic violence in extreme danger. Passing SB 977 would allow victims to choose a safe and appropriate method of receiving their Personal Health Information and EOB, without the fear that their abuser will get a copy.”

SB 977 will do the following:

  • Allow individuals to choose how they receive EOBs and allow individuals to not receive EOBs at all
  • Allow individuals to choose how they receive EOBs, either by mail or electronically
  • Prohibit insurers from requiring covered individuals to waive their right to limit disclosures as a precondition to any action regarding their policy

SB 977 covers individuals who are legally able to consent to their own care. Currently in Connecticut law, minors have the right to consent to HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, reproductive health care, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment. These are the only services that a minor can consent to.

Allowing any insured enrollee to request that EOB documents about their care be redirected to another address (including email) or not issued is an important step toward improving privacy. The subscriber can still access information about the use of the plan or a deductible, through other means including the carrier’s web portal.

This legislation applies to insurers, health care centers, hospital and medical service corporations, fraternal benefit services and any other entity which delivers, issues, renews, amends or continues a health insurance policy. According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, this legislation presents no fiscal impact to Connecticut taxpayers.

On March 19, SB 977 advanced out of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee by a 15-5 tally. The bill now awaits action by the State House of Representatives.