New Jersey psychologists sue insurers over privacy

New Jersey psychologists are suing two insurance companies, claiming the insurers are asking for intimate details about their patients’ lives.

The New Jersey Psychological Association filed the suit against Horizon Healthcare Services and Magellan Health Services. A similar suit was filed and dismissed on technical grounds last year. The association thinks it has a better chance now that two patients are part of the suit.

It claims the insurance companies ask for too much information when determining benefits.

Dr. Barry Helfmann of the association says this information is protected by privacy laws.

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“What is the patient talking about, what are the issues they are discussing with you, why do they need to keep coming,” said Helfmann. “And if you say you’re asking for information which violates the licensing law, which violates the patient’s privacy and I can’t give it to you, I will give you the basic information you need, they then say, we’ll deny the treatment.”

Helfmann says the idea that intimate details of their lives could go beyond the treatment room makes clients very uncomfortable.

“Can you imagine a patient who is a high-level executive who maybe has an alcohol problem that they don’t want their employer or anyone to know, and the insurer is saying what is going on with this patient?” Helfmann said.

In a joint statement, Magellan and Horizon say the information they request is appropriate and consistent with federal and state laws. The companies add that they respect the privacy of their members.

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