Consumer Confidential: Your prescription history is their business
From a purely business perspective, a service like ScriptCheck is perfectly understandable. An insurer would be remiss if it didn’t use every tool at its disposal to determine the risk posed by policyholders and prospective policyholders.
From a privacy perspective, it’s just plain spooky.
No one at ExamOne or Quest Diagnostics responded to my requests for comment.
But ExamOne’s website says that ScriptCheck “enables expedited delivery of prescription and related information to underwriters and investigators for use during the risk assessment or claim investigation process.”
“Profiles include the results of a five-year history search with detailed drug and insurance eligibility information, treating physicians, drug indications and pharmacy information,” it says.
And the service doesn’t end with a list of people’s meds. It also provides best guesses as to a patient’s underlying medical condition, “which is derived from the predictive modeling that is performed by Optum MedPoint.”
MedPoint is a service offered by another for-profit medical data broker, OptumInsight, a subsidiary of insurance giant UnitedHealth Group, which also has voluminous files on people’s health care.
A “case study” on ExamOne’s website says ScriptCheck “greatly decreases the time to perform risk assessments and integrates complete prescription drug histories into a real-time underwriting process.”
It says ScriptCheck relies primarily on “drug histories provided by the largest Pharmacy Benefit Management companies in the United States.”
“No other provider has as much access to this information as ExamOne,” it says.
The case study quotes an unnamed ScriptCheck product manager as saying that the service “looks at an applicant’s prescription drug history and displays risk assessments in real time.” This can provide “insight into a chronic condition that may have been omitted — intentionally or unintentionally by the applicant.”
Is any of this illegal? Apparently not. When you apply for life insurance, you sign away your federal medical privacy rights. That provides an enormous opportunity for the vast and secretive industry that trades in people’s personal information.
There’s not much you can do about it — it’s the world we live in nowadays.
But it’s definitely something to keep in mind if your medical privacy is important to you.
ABOUT THE WRITER
David Lazarus, a Los Angeles Times columnist, writes on consumer issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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