Confidential Health Information Act Clears California Legislature | CFHC Press Release

Confidential Health Information Act Clears California Legislature

Release Date: 
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Contact Information: 

Vivian Nguyen / 510.486.0412.x2320 / nguyenv@cfhc.org

Sacramento, California -- The Confidential Health Information Act – SB 138 - authored by Senator Ed Hernandez [D-24] of Los Angeles, has cleared the California state legislature and now moves to the governor’s desk for signature. If SB 138 becomes law, it will:

  • Require health plans to honor confidential communications requests when individuals covered under another person’s policy seek sensitive services like birth control, STD tests, mental health care or any service if they feel that disclosure of information to the policy holder could lead to harm.
  • When a confidential communications request is submitted, the individual will give the health plans a way to communicate with them directly about the sensitive services they received instead of sending information to the main policy holder – often a parent or spouse.
  • Take effect starting January 1, 2015.

Loopholes in existing state and federal laws and regulations allow for breaches in patient confidentiality in the form of Explanation of Benefits letters and other routine communications from health insurance plans. The California Association of Health Plans removed their opposition when amendments to the bill were taken in the second house.

"SB 138 is common sense legislation that should have been on the books a long time ago. It’s needed now more than ever because more people are moving into private health insurance under health care reform," said Senator Hernandez. "We are hopeful that our governor will sign this bill into law without delay," the Senator added.

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required that health plans and insurers offer dependent coverage for children up to age 26. In California more than 435,000 young adults gained coverage under their parent’s insurance as a result of this benefit. Many more Californians are expected to sign up for private insurance thanks to more affordable options expected to be available through Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

"With expanded health care coverage, we have to ensure that everyone with private health insurance feels safe enough to use it," said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of California Family Health Council, a co-sponsor of SB 138. 

"If individuals knew they could safely use their insurance for personal and timely services like birth control, a pregnancy or STD test or domestic violence screening, they might get care sooner and not sign up for a public program because they don’t want the insurance company to tell their parents or spouses about their sensitive health matters.  We applaud Senator Hernandez for his leadership in championing SB 138, and we urge the Governor to sign this important women’s health bill that is good for public health and the state’s bottom line," Rabinovitz continued.

"California isn’t the only state struggling with the complex problem of protecting confidential health information in insurance communications. This is a national issue but because it depends on state confidentiality and insurance laws and regulations, the solution must be state specific," said Maggie Crosby, an attorney at the ACLU of California, also a bill sponsor.

"If SB 138 becomes law, California will have a model that can be used across the country for striking a workable balance between protecting patient confidentiality and allowing health plans and insurers to send required communications to their enrollees," added Rebecca Gudeman, senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, another cosponsoring organization.

The governor has 30 days to sign SB 138 into law.

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Learn more about California Family Health Council at www.cfhc.org.
Learn more about the ACLU of Northern California at www.aclunc.org
Learn more about the National Center for Youth Law at www.youthlaw.org.