Is a doctor's office allowed to discuss your private bill and financial and insurance information in front of other patients?

Asked 7 months ago - Houston, TX

At the pediatrician, where you pay the copay before you see the doctor, whom I have been taking my children to for 9+years...the lady who checks you out tells me I have a balance. There is no privacy window, it is a large desk and other parents as well as my children are standing there. She says that in 2011 there is $185 worth of bills. We only have copays. The discussion become her trying to tell me there is a portion called co insurance, and we don't have that on BCBS, that whatever the copay and ins don't cover i must cover. she talked over me, argued with me, discussed my financial information in front of other parents. Is this ethical? The doctor is the best. I was with her prior to her joining TCPN and my older daughter saw her as a child going back 15 years +.

Additional information

I might add that I do outside marketing for a PI group of doctors, and I am certain that no employee with whom I work would ever be allowed to speak to a patient that way discussing financial issues with them in front of other patients. Texas Children's Pediatricians is a well respected group. I am completely certain there must be some sort of law against not only the discussion that occurred but my questioning a bill and that being the basis for the showdown. As a paying client, I have every legal right to ask why I have a bill. To discuss all of this in the room with other parents was out of line and unacceptable. I left there so embarrassed and humiliated that I could not get to the car fast enough.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Daragh John Carter

    Contributor Level 14

    7

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    1

    Answered . I haven't had much reason in my personal injury practice to really delve deeply into HIPAA, but I suspect the answer lies within that healthcare privacy law. I believe you are correct in thinking that your billing information is protected just like a patient's medical condition and diagnoses.

    It sounds to me like the most disappointing part for you is how you were treated by the customer service person at the pediatrician's office. Consider writing a letter to your doctor and copying the head of patient relations at Texas Childrens to make sure your concerns are reviewed. It is possible that Texas Childrens has its own written patient privacy policy: if so, get a copy and see if it was violated.

    I have three young kids and I know a good pediatrician is hard to find, so try to work around this rude person.

    You may find this link helpful in reviewing HIPAA; there is also a link for how to file a complaint. http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understand...

  2. David Ian Schoen

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    7

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . Tell the dentist.

  3. Christian K. Lassen II

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

    6

    Lawyers agree

    1

    Answered . It is not good bedside manner...

  4. Kevin J. Kelley

    Contributor Level 7

    Answered . Review the Notice of Privacy Practices (NOPP) provided by the health care provider. Patients who believe that health care providers violate the HIPAA privacy rule, can file a complaint with the health care provider's privacy officer. Also, patients may file a complaint with the HHS Office for Civil Rights. Information about how to file such complaints is contained in the NOPP.

    The information provided is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.

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