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Health Care Privacy FAQs

Simple, direct answers to common questions about health care privacy

Why is health care privacy important?
If you don't believe your health information is protected, you may be less likely to visit or talk to your doctors and other health care experts about health issues because you are afraid of who else may learn about your conditions.  This may place you at greater risk: Your doctor needs to know as much as possible about your health to give you the best possible care.

Is my personal health information private?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) includes a privacy rule that require people who manage your health care keep your information private (other federal and state laws include privacy protections as well). Health care companies must follow the HIPAA privacy rule as well as health care providers. Examples of health care companies and health care providers include: 

  • Doctors
  • Dentists 
  • Psychologists
  • Chiropractors
  • Pharmacies
  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Nursing homes

What sort of health information is considered private?
Here are some examples of protected information:

  • Anything your doctors, nurses, and others put in your medical record 
  • Conversations your doctor has about your care or treatment with nurses and others 
  • Information about you in an insurer's computer system 
  • Billing information about you at a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital

What are my rights with regard to my privacy?
You have the right to:

  • Know who has your personal health information
  • Request limits on who can see this information
  • Get a copy of this information
  • Be provided with privacy notices that explain our use and disclosure of your information
  • Have this information safeguarded
  • Request corrections to your information 
  • Decide if you want to give your permission before your information can be used or shared for certain purposes, such as for marketing
  • Get a report on when and why your information was shared for certain purposes 
  • File a complaint if you feel your right to privacy has been violated

What are Aetna’s responsibilities with regard to my privacy?
We have the responsibility to:

  • Put safeguards in place to protect your information
  • Limit the use and disclosure of your information to the minimum needed to accomplish our goals 
  • Enter into agreements with our contractors and others to make sure they use and disclose your information properly and safeguard it appropriately 
  • Have procedures in place to limit who can see your information 
  • Hold training programs for employees to learn how to protect your information

I am an Aetna member. How do I exercise my privacy rights?
Call us at the number on your member ID card. Tell us what you need. For example, you may want to: 

  • Request information on how we may use or share your health information
  • See what health information we have about you
  • Authorize someone else to see your private health information
  • Ask us to refrain from sharing your information under certain circumstances. You may need to complete and send in a form depending on your request. Our response will depend on the nature of your request.

Do you get your health insurance where you work? If so, where you go for privacy information depends on the kind of plan you joined.

There are two kinds of health plans offered by employers. One kind of plan is called “insured” because an insurance company pays for claims. The other kind of plan is called “self-insured” because your employer actually pays for claims and hires another company only to run the systems that support the plan. If you are a member of a self-insured plan, you may need to work with your employer to address your privacy concerns.

To find out whether to address a privacy issue with your employer or with Aetna, call the number on your member ID card or talk to your company HR representative.

What can I do if I think my privacy rights have been violated?
Contact us if you think your rights are being denied or your health information isn’t being protected. Call the number on your member ID card. Or write to:

HIPAA Member Rights Team
P.O. Box 14079
Lexington, KY 40512-4079

You may also write to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You will not be penalized for filing a complaint.

How can I change the way Aetna communicates with me?

You have the right to ask us to communicate with you in a certain way or at a certain location.  

If you are on someone else’s insurance and would like us to send your Explanation of Benefits statements and other claim information to an address that’s different from the primary subscriber’s, please call Member Services at the number on your ID card.

To stop paper mailings of Explanation of Benefits and claim information, log in to your secure account and use the “Profile” link in the upper right corner to change your paper-saving preferences. Your Explanation of Benefits and claim information will still be available in your secure account. 

You also can use the “Profile” link to opt in or out of receiving emails from us, or to add or change a phone number.

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