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DC fines Aetna over revealing patients’ HIV status

FILE - In this June 1, 2017, file photo, a sign stands on the campus of the Aetna headquarters, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes, File)

WASHINGTON — Insurance giant Aetna will pay a $175,000 fine to D.C. as part of a settlement reached Wednesday over patients’ privacy.

The office of D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced the settlement, part of a multistate investigation into a mass mailing that displayed the HIV status of more than 12,000 patients nationwide, including 388 in the District.

In July of last year, Aetna sent a mailing to those patients regarding options for HIV medications, but the window envelopes revealed not only the patients’ names but the words “HIV Medications,” Racine’s office said in the statement, adding that Aetna had similarly violated the medical privacy of 10 atrial fibrillation patients in D.C. in September 2017.

The District charged that Aetna not only failed to protect patients’ confidential health information but misled them about their ability to do so, the statement said.

In addition to the fine, Racine’s office said, Aetna will adopt new policies to prevent the problem from happening again and hire consultant to monitor their privacy practices.

Connecticut, New Jersey and the state of Washington reached similar settlements, Racine’s office said. In January of this year, Aetna settled a class-action lawsuit from the 12,000 patients for $17 million.

“Every patient should feel confident that their insurance company or health provider will safeguard their confidential medical information,” Racine said in the statement. “Today’s action will prevent further disclosures and warns other insurance companies that they are responsible for protecting consumers’ private information.”


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