October 23, 2018 at 12:44 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. fines Aetna for disclosing patient HIV status
Aetna, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by the Montgomery County Planning Commission via Flickr)

The District government and the Aetna insurance company reached a settlement earlier this month in which the health insurance firm agreed to pay a $175,000 fine and adopt policies to protect consumer privacy after news surfaced last year that it mistakenly disclosed the HIV status of up to 12,000 consumers nationwide.

In an Oct. 10 statement, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced the D.C. settlement came in response to his office’s investigation into reports that 388 District residents were among the 12,000 whose HIV status was disclosed on envelopes Aetna used to contact patients and others taking HIV medication to prevent HIV infection under the PrEP program.

Racine noted in his statement that in July 2017 Aetna mailed notices to approximately 12,000 consumers receiving HIV medication, including the 388 D.C. residents, in envelopes with transparent plastic windows. In addition to the consumers’ name and address the words “HIV Medications” were visible through the windows on the outside of the envelopes for anyone to see.

“Aetna failed to protect the health information of District residents and illegally disclosed their HIV status,” Racine said in his statement. “Every patient should feel confident that their insurance company or health provider will safeguard their confidential medical information,” he said.

Aetna responded earlier this year by filing a $20 million lawsuit against an administrative support company that Aetna claimed was responsible for the privacy breach through the mailing envelopes. The company, Kurtzman Carson Consultants, LLC, filed a counter suit against Aetna claiming Aetna was the party responsible for the privacy breach.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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