Manatt Partner Discusses Exchanges' Social Media Practices with Government Health IT

HIXs Navigate Social Media Privacy Lines
– Government Health IT

Manatt's Robert Belfort, a partner in the firm's Healthcare Division, discussed with Government Health IT the legality of health insurance exchange staff communicating with consumers on public social media sites such as Twitter.

Government Health IT reports that a number of potential consumers are taking to social media to either find help or air frustrations about the various glitches they've experienced on the health insurance exchanges. In many states, Twitter has become a chief venue for consumers and exchange staff, who may have begun using it as a marketing channel, to connect. However, the public communication between consumers and staff has some concerned, raising the question of whether sharing personal information in a public venue crosses privacy lines or exposes consumers to digital security risks?

Belfort told the publication that insurance exchanges themselves are not HIPAA covered entities (although they could be subject to penalties for willful disclosures of personally identifiable information) and that type of information sharing in a public venue - a consumer's health plan selection - isn't violating any federal or state law, especially since the consumer volunteered the information and the exchange staff wasn't disclosing anything.

"Whether it's a wise practice is another idea," Belfort continued. "It's not the ideal way for these issues to be resolved. It's not typically the way government programs address problems citizens may have."

Read the article here