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House member asks: Could health exchange sell collected data?

published 2/1/2013
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Lawmakers said their constituents are looking for assurances that their personal medical history and private data stay private when the state fires up its new health exchange marketplace next year.

During a meeting of the House Civil Law Committee on Friday Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) asked Don Gemberling, a Minnesota Coalition on Government Information board member, whether the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace would be able to sell data it collects on individuals. “I think they’ll be smart enough not to do that,” replied Gemberling.

Holberg was trying to make a point about how much discretion a new state health exchange board should have regarding the use of private data and the board’s proposed exemptions from the Data Practices Act. HF5 would allow the marketplace to share “not public data with state and federal agencies and other entities if the exchange of the data is reasonably necessary to carry out the functions of the marketplace.”

Members also discussed what type of appeals process to include in the bill. Rep. Cindy Pugh (R-Chanhassen) successfully offered an amendment to broaden consumer appeals.

Sponsored by Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights), the bill would allow health carriers, who, for example, want to contest a certification denial by the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace board, to appeal in district court, but all other appeals would have simply received a hearing by the board.

Pugh’s amendment would require all appeals, including consumer eligibility determinations or navigator certification appeals, to be subject to review in district court or by an administrative law judge. Atkins said 9,000 appeals can be anticipated per year regarding the health exchange marketplace.

The committee, which has purview over the data portions, approved the bill as amended and referred it to the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee. However, not all of the questions posed by members about data practices and privacy issues were answered. For example: How long will data collected on consumers who enroll in the health exchange be retained and what is the schedule for data destruction? A seven-member appointed health exchange board will determine those answers, according to Michael Turpin, attorney for the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange at the Department of Commerce.

Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-St. Louis Park) said a continued discussion of data privacy concerns will be held in a data practices subcommittee meeting before it reaches the health policy committee.

Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick) sponsors a companion, SF1, which awaits action by the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee.

- Sue Hegarty

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