The Importance of Privacy Laws for Healthcare Insurance Markets

By Matt Dumiak

Privacy regulations and legislation are topics that continue to be of concern for businesses.  News of data breaches, data vulnerabilities and compromised private information is released almost daily from businesses both small and large- some insurers included.  Legislation has recently been proposed for individual states, addressing data privacy regulations head-on.  Several states including Virginia, Vermont, Colorado, and New Jersey have all introduced related privacy regulations recently. California recently set themselves apart in the privacy space with the adoption of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which gave citizens the rights to not only protect their own data, but to obligate businesses to disclose exactly which information has been collected about them. 

At the federal level, the United States has yet to propose a national privacy bill that would affect healthcare insurers.  Vermont recently implemented a law regulating data broker companies that buy and sell personal information.  With the new law, brokers must disclose what information they collect as well as allow their customers to opt out of collection.  Furthermore, consumers can sue data brokers if they sell any information that causes illegal discrimination. A similar law has also been proposed in Colorado that is broader, yet specifically manages personal identifying information. Individual states seem to be leading the way for data privacy regulation discussions.



International regulations have also played a significant role in the privacy discussion, specifically following enforcement of the GDPR (General Data Privacy Regulation) in the European Union (EU). 

These regulations have certainly contributed to the movement towards consumerism and prompted the healthcare insurance market in the United States to rethink data collection and management, considering how violating these regulations could adversely affect their business and brand. Many healthcare insurers are asking themselves “am I liable and governed by the legislation in the EU?” For many, the answer is yes.  More specifically, any website that offers goods or services to EU natural persons is subject to the GDPR.  The discussion has further prompted healthcare insurance companies to question whether or not they are governed by similar laws in the United States. 

Since the introduction of the CCPA, several senators have proposed policy options for national legislation on data security and privacy.  Proposed bills have had a GDPR-like flavor that is similar in scope to the international regulation.  If the U.S. were to adopt similar regulatory standards, business processes and products that handle personal data would need to be built to include data protection by design and default.   

Regardless of business size, the magnitude of data collected, shared or mismanaged is more concerning considering the sensitivity of private information in which every-day people entrust their insurance companies to protect.  As the conversation around regulation increases, there has been much talk about what a national privacy law might look like, and furthermore how state regulations would affect insurance organizations doing business across the U.S.

At the forefront of privacy-law related issues are very visible and widely used big technology companies.  These big technology players have demonstrated some interest in getting ahead of possible regulation by possibly drafting and proposing possible regulatory standards themselves possibly because there is a monetary desire for these bills to be aligned with their terms, rather than abiding by laws voted in by citizens of the United States. 

Big data companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all been amongst discussions, and various reports have been released stating the companies are “in-favor” of such legislation.  This push has left some lawmakers feeling uneasy, considering these companies are likely seeking to be involved in legislation to sway technicalities in their favor.

In conclusion, states will likely continue to pave the way for privacy regulations. Until formal national legislation is adopted, and voters see these initiatives on their ballots, states will continue to implement their own forms of data protection.  Problems will continue to rise for businesses as states implement their own laws that non-regulated states must abide by.  A national privacy law could make this transition easier among U.S. business owners, as one uniform standard can be applied to all.

About Matt Dumiak

Matt Dumiak, Director of Privacy at CompliancePoint has over 10 years of experience with Information Security, Cyber Security, and Risk Management.  His knowledge spans across multiple industries and entities including healthcare, government, card issuers, banks, ATMs, acquirers, merchants, hardware vendors, encryption technologies, and key management.

About CompliancePoint:

CompliancePoint is a leading provider of information security and risk management services focused on privacy, data security, compliance and vendor risk management. The company’s mission is to help clients interact responsibly with their customers and the marketplace. CompliancePoint provides a full suite of services across the entire life cycle of risk management using a FIND, FIX & MANAGE approach. CompliancePoint can help organizations prepare for critical need such as GDPR with project initiation and buy-in, strategic consulting, data inventory and mapping, readiness assessments, PIMS & ISMS framework design and implementation, and ongoing program management and monitoring. The company’s history of dealing with both privacy and data security, inside knowledge of regulatory actions and combination of services and technology solutions makes CompliancePoint uniquely qualified to help our clients achieve both a secure and compliant framework.

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