Protecting Your Protected Health Information (PHI)

While using the ATM, I noticed a man lingering around the machine which seemed odd.  When I left I wondered, “Did he just see me enter my PIN?”  A half hour later, I went to pay for my groceries and my wallet was gone.  I kind of panicked, wondering, “Is this an identity scam? First my PIN, now my wallet. What if my identity is being stolen?”

Stolen identities – and health insurance scams  – happen.  Luckily, all Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBSMT) members can keep their protected health information (PHI) in the right hands.

Taking Charge of Your Health

Your PHI is safe so long as it’s shared with those you trust.   

PHI not only includes medical records, it also involves health-related documents that show personal data, such as your:

  • Address
  • Birthdate
  • Social Security Number1

If you’re not sure what is – and isn’t – PHI, asking these questions may help you decide:

  • Does the document show anything linked to my health issue?
  • Is my name on the document?
  • Can I be identified based on what’s in the document? 
  • Is the account I used to pay for care shown in the document?

Remember, if the document doesn’t relate to your health, it may not be viewed as PHI.

Your Standard authorization form

Using a Standard authorization form lets you manage who can get information about your health conditions and claims. For example, you might allow BCBSMT to talk with your daughter if she’s helping manage your care.  Just keep in mind using the form is completely your choice.  You don’t have to use one if you don’t want anyone to have access to your information. BCBS won’t release your PHI to another person/third party unless you give us permission to do so.

Explanation of Benefits (EOB) and Dependents

As a reminder, EOB forms are available on the Blue Access for MembersSM (BAM) account for the policy holder.  If you’re covering dependents on your health plan, you don’t need a Standard authorization form (SAF) to receive – and view – their EOB information in BAM’s Claim Center.  Since only the policy holder can view EOB, dependents can’t see their EOB or those of anyone else on the plan through their account. The policy holder can share EOB with their dependents by printing the EOB from BAM or emailing the EOB to their dependent. If you’d like for a dependent to be able to request a paper copy of an EOB for someone else on the plan other than themselves, you’ll need to submit an SAF.

Think about getting involved with your PHI so you’re sure it’s not stolen.  Thankfully I found my wallet while I was at the grocery store; ensure that your PHI stays similarly protected.

1 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

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