TRENTON, N.J. — The state of New Jersey has reached a settlement with Aetna, Inc., over allegations the company disclosed protected health information including HIV/AIDS status and individuals' participation in medical studies.
According to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, a multistate investigation found that an Aetna third-party mailing revealed the health information of thousands of addresses that include about 647 New Jersey residents. Envelopes used in one mailing had a transparent glassine address window which revealed the words "HIV Medications," the Attorney General's Office said. Also, according to the Attorney General's Office, another Aetna mailing included the name and logo of a patient study for AFib which revealed the addressees' possible AFib diagnosis.
“Companies entrusted with individuals’ protected health information have a duty to avoid improper disclosures,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. “Aetna fell short here, potentially subjecting thousands of individuals to the stigma and discrimination that, unfortunately, still may accompany disclosure of their HIV/AIDS status. I am pleased that our investigation has led Aetna to adopt measures to prevent this from happening again.”
As part of the settlement, Aetna will pay a $365,211.59 civil penalty to the State of New Jersey and will establish a policy, protocol and training reforms to ensure health information is protected in future mailings. In addition the company will hire an independent consultant who will evaluate and report on its privacy protection, according to Grewal's Office.