My privacy rights negated by “blackmail”


As I churn through my “early” autumn tears of life, I am more apt to visit the doctor. I did that today. As I got to the check in desk I was given a single piece of paper and asked to sign. I locked on to the words, “Notice of Privacy Practices” I thought it was a form to sign to acknowledge understanding of the notice.. I felt there was no need to sign such a form. And I stated that.

A few minutes later after some quick discussion by the clerk and someone else it was told to me, no signature, no service. I said you cannot refuse service, and asked to speak with a supervisor. Katie, her name was. Right off the bat, she stated no service will be refused, but I would be treated as a self pay. In other words, I would have to pay an upfront $150. She then went to explain that the form was more than a notice, but an overall consent to share my medical information with others.

I then took a closer look of the “document”. It was a broad consent form to share my data with a broad range of parties for research, quality care reviews, and for other purposes outside for payment of my insurance and treatment.

I thought to myself ok. I went through my “summer” years working on Minnesota medical privacy laws at the Legislature so I have an understanding of our law and what I think our rights are.

So I said to Katie, I will consent to the parts of the form that I think are appropriate, such as giving my information to third party administrators that help process the claims, to my health plans, and one or two others. Her response, “You cannot do that.” It is either sign whole, or pay the $150 up front. Not having a major credit card nor $150 on me, my wheels started to roll. I said you are “blackmailing” me in giving up my choice who I want my medical records to go and my rights which I am entitled by law to do. To the best of my knowledge, I have always modified the consent forms in the past.

Direct and frank discussion continued. I gave her rationale why this form is inappropriate. She said in so many words: Bottom line, no signature for the whole consent, or $150 for self pay, no $$$, no service. I caved. I needed to see the doctor.

So what happened. My privacy rights which allows me to control where my medical records go was completely blocked. I could not do a consent specifically only to this visit and transaction. I had to sign a broad release form for possible visits in the future other than the one I did today and also to allow to have my data go to many places which is outside of my treatment and payment processes.

I told Katie I was interested to speak with their legal person on these matters or their privacy person.

Several hours later, I spoke to a person. He is the head of the integrity and compliance of the medical/health service company. Restated some of the points, but also hammering on the view that our state law allows choice to where are medical records go, but that we can also modify our consent forms to the single purpose of the visit.

As someone in that position the gentleman wishes to listen to the patient, but he was also aware of my privacy advocacy background, independently, of me even saying anything. It seemed he wanted to learn what was wrong in my view. He brought up several times, this is a standard form. Again I shot back, basically stating, it does not mean I give up my control over my medical data and give up my rights under Minnesota law. He stated he was going to speak with their legal counsel and appropriate people and get back to me. Stay tuned.

Link to the Minnesota Health Records Act