Boston Medical Center settles charge of deceptive marketing

Boston Medical Center HealthNet and Boston Medical Center Corporation have agreed to pay the state $562,000 to settle charges that BMC gave private patient information to its HealthNet insurance plan for marketing purposes that the state described as deceptive.

According to WBUR, BMC sent a letter to 2,600 patients who were insured by competing plans.  The hospital also offered free gift cards to CVS pharmacies as part of its inducement to switch from competing plans to theirs.

The hospital issued a statement saying it regrets any confusion the letter created. The letter begins, “To continue getting your care at Boston Medical Center, now is the time to switch from NHP to BMC HealthNet plan.”

As part of the settlement, BMC has also arranged for a review of its procedures to see if they comply with HIPAA, although the civil action was filed under the state’s consumer protection laws and not HIPAA.

In announcing the settlement, Attorney General Martha Coakley said:

As we expand health coverage to the uninsured, it is particularly important that hospitals and insurers do not overlook state consumer and patient privacy laws when marketing their health plans.  We will continue to work with the Connector and Mass Health to safeguard patients’ rights.

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