Your Health Insurance Company Probably Knows More About You Than You Think.

According to a recent ProPublica report , health insurance companies are interested in your data and they can use it to raise rates or discriminate against groups of people, but this is hard to tell as companies are awkward when asked what exactly they are doing. with the data they collect.

These aren’t just your Facebook clicks – these are things you can’t opt ​​out of, such as criminal records, property data, and consumer data from a variety of sources. Some of these companies know where you live and all the phone numbers you have in your life. Others say they have information about which magazines you subscribe to and which purchases you have made.

Yes it is legal

Although insurers use this data to try to figure out something about your health, it is not considered medical information in the same sense as your medical records. A law called HIPAA gives you some control over who has access to them.

And even though insurers and data brokers can calculate health scores based on the data they collect, you have no legal right to see those scores or correct errors , as is the case with your credit reports.

Insurers cannot yet use this data to raise rates for everyone. The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to offer the same price to everyone in the area. They may adjust the price based on your age, the number of your family members, and whether you smoke, but that’s about it. They cannot charge extra if you are a woman (as many insurers did before the ACA) and they cannot change your rate based on your health condition.

But there are many ways to use this data to differentiate. First, short-term health insurance plans do not have to follow this rule, so insurers can adjust rates based on what they think is your health risk. If future legislation further undermines the ACA, it could become a problem for many more people.

One insurer told ProPublica that they are using the data to “supplement their claims and clinical information.” I can’t help but wonder if some companies are using Scratch Information to deny the claim, as Tracy Clayton says what happened to her when she posted beach photos on social media while treating mental health problems:

But this is still problematic

Even without raising rates for individuals, insurance companies can use this data in ways that make life difficult for some of us or discriminate against people who are already disadvantaged. For example, people in poor neighborhoods may be more likely to get sick, and an insurer may decide not to offer some or all of these plans in certain areas.

Insurers may also use personal information for marketing, which is legal. If they find hobbies that are more popular with people who are health-minded or have a lower price tag, then they can advertise in a way that targets those people.

And while there is no reliable way to keep your data out of the hands of insurers or data brokers, there is no way to see all the information they have about you in their files. Perhaps worst of all, companies don’t know if all of their information is correct or if their assumptions are correct. As an analyst at IBM Watson Health told ProPublica, the information they collect should be viewed as “data analysis. But this is not necessarily a fact. “


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