Monday, August 04, 2008

Insurance companies can get "health credit scores"

There is an undercover “health credit report” being used by health and life insurance companies, according to a front page story by Ellen Nakashima in the Monday Aug. 4 Washington Post. The title is “Prescription data used to assess customers: Records aid insurers but prompt privacy concerns,” link here. Two of the major data brokers in the business are Ingenix (Minnesota) and Milliman. Both companies appear to be related in a number of insurance and employer-benefits related businesses. Insurance companies obviously want to use this information to avoid anti-selection in the individual health and life insurance markets.

There is some confusion as to what the 1996 HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) (text and its upgrades covers. HIPAA, while covering patients’ medical records, apparently does not apply to pharmacy records. As I argued on an entry on my “IT jobs” blog entry July 28, more systems integration of health insurance records could make it easier to protect privacy of associated patient records like pharmacy. You wonder how far this could go. What about over-the-counter decongestants that have to be signed for?

However, Congress is considering regulating downstream health services and their patient information. This bill appears to be S 1814, the Health Information Privacy and Security Act, 110th Congress, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), govtrack reference here.

As far as to other kinds of gumshoed reports on people with evaluation grades or "scores," imagination is limitless. One issue would be identifying people correctly (according to available markers well known in consumer credit reporting) and the ability of consumers to correct "mistakes." Imagine, if you will, an "online reputation score."

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