Speak Your Mind NJ News

Testimony at NJ Senate Legislative Oversight Committee Hearing
Today Dr. Jeffrey Axelbank testified at a hearing held by the NJ Senate Legislative Oversight Committee looking into the practices of mental health insurance companies.  The testimony was based largely on the data collected via this website and the NJPA Insurance Complaint Registry, and focused on many of the same issues at the center of the lawsuit against Horizon and Magellan.  To hear a recording of Dr. Axelbank's testimony, click here.  To read the testimony and accompanying materials, click here and here.

Appeals Court Renders Unfavorable Ruling - NJPA to Appeal to the NJ Supreme Court
The Appellate Division of The Superior Court of NJ has issued a ruling in the defendant's appeal of the trial judge's ruling on their motion to dismiss the case.  The Appeals court has reversed the trial judge's ruling, having the effect of dismissing our case.  NJPA disagrees with the Appellate Division Ruling.  After consuling with the legal team, NJPA has decided to appeal this decision to the NJ Supreme Court. 

State Health Benefits Commission files amicus brief, and NJPA responds
The Appeals Court asked the State Health Benefits Commission (SHBC) if they wanted to file an amicus brief on the question of whether the patient/plaintiffs in this case should have exhausted their administrative appeals before filing the lawsuit.  Although the SHBC declined to comment on this question in previous court proceedings, they did file an amicus brief at this time, arguing that the patient/plaintiffs should have exhausted all administrative appeals before filing this suit.  The NJPA attorneys responded with a brief that reiterates why it is not appropriate for the patients to exhaust their administrative appeals and why the courts need to rule on the point of law at issue in this suit, something that the SHBC cannot do.

Briefs filed to the Appeals Court
The defendants have filed their brief appealing the judge's decision not to dismiss our suit, and our lawyers have filed our response.  We expect oral arguments to take place Fall 2012.

Check out this blog post on the Psychology Today website on the issues raised by our lawsuit.
June 22, 2012

NJ Supreme Court Allows Defendants to Appeal
The defendants Horizon and Magellan have been granted leave to appeal their motion to dismiss (which was denied by the trial court judge) to the Appellate Division.  The decision is here.  We are still confident that we will prevail in court once the merits of the case are considered.  This is only a delay. 

N.J. Plan Requires Too Much PHI for Payment, Psychologists Allege

Employers Guide to HIPAA Privacy Requirements

Vol. 10, No. 12, January 2012

Page 1-2, 5

Appeals Court Rules in our Favor!
The defendants Horizon and Magellan asked the appeals court to allow them to appeal the denial of their motion to dismiss our case.  The Appeals court refused their request, so our lawsuit will proceed.

Judge rules in our favor!
After oral arguments on 11/18, the Judge Harriet F. Klein ruled on the spot in our favor on all points.  See her ruling here.  Now, on to the real issues in the case, rather than delays.

Mental Health Weekly
October 24, 2011
Pages 3-6

Psychologists Challenge Collection of Treatment Data
Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bloomberg
Privacy & Security Law Report (subscription only)
October 24, 2011

197 Websites pick up our press release!
A large number of news websites of various types have posted our press release.  For a list of them, along with links to the press release on their site, click here.

New Jersey Psychologists Sue Insurers Over Privacy
Reporter Maiken Scott of WHYY (Philadelphia Public Radio) reports on our lawsuit.
Audio (mp3 file)

Lawsuit Update: 
October 13,  2011 - The New Jersey Psychological Association sues Horizon and Magellan for violating privacy and breaking contractual obligations, continuing its fight to end unlawful practices of major health insurance plans. See the press release here

Lawsuit Update:
February 3, 2011 - The judge in the case has ruled in favor of the defendants' motion to dismiss the case.  Her reasoning is that NJPA does not have legal standing to bring the suit, since it doesn't have any contractual ties to the State Health Benefits Plan, Horizon, or Magellan.  Though this is a setback, we are still confident that the suit can go forward in some form, and we will ultimately prevail.  Our attorneys are assessing possible next steps.  Please see the joint APA/NJPA announcement of this new development.

Lawsuit Update:
The court calendar has been set, and it is a tight schedule.  All interrogatory documentation is to be submitted by January 24, 2011, and all depositions are to be completed by March 11, 2011.  Of course there may still be delays, but this calendar may lead to a decision in this case during this Spring 2011.

Lawsuit Update:
On October 29, 2010, the New Jersey Psychological Association filed an amended complaint to the lawsuit against Magellan, Horizon, and the State Health Benefits Commission.  The main point of this amendment is that the defendants breach their contract with subscribers when they ask for personal confidential information that goes beyond the "minimum necessary information" needed to process the claim.  In the State Health Benefits Program's handbook, they promise to abide by HIPAA and therefore to only ask for "minimum necessary information."  Since their other insurance plans manage to process claims without asking for this additional information, the requests for deeper personal information goes beyond "minimum necessary."

Not only is this a strong legal point, but it also makes this lawsuit a potentially landmark case, as it is the first time a court is being asked to rule on what comprises "minimum necessary information" for mental health claims (and possibly the first time for any health insurance claim).  Therefore, the potential impact of this case reaches far beyond psychologists and their State Health Benefits Program patients in New Jersey.

Lawsuit Update:
After some delays, a mediation session took place the first week in September 2010.  NJPA's representatives met with representatives from the three defendant organizations (Magellan Health Services, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ, and the NJ State Health Benefits Commission) and a court-appointed mediator (a former judge).  The outcome of this session was that no agreement was reached and the mediator reported back to Judge Jacobson that the parties were unsuccessful at reaching a mediated settlement to this conflict.  Therefore, the issue will return to the courts for litigation.

Some Cuts Cost Taxpayers
In The Lobby
July 16, 2010
Barry Helfmann

Lawsuit Update:

On Tuesday June 1, 2010 Judge Jacobson heard initial arguments on our lawsuit demanding that Magellan, Blue Cross, and the State Health Benefits Commission cease and desist from asking for confidential patient information in order to authorize psychotherapy sessions.
The judge set a 60-day deadline for the two sides to reach a mediated agreement on the cease and desist demand. If no agreement is reached by August 1, the judge will hear the case.
This lawsuit covers in-network and out-of-network providers, private practitioners and institutional practitioners. The lawsuit is an important step in NJPA’s efforts to protect patients, maintain patient privacy, and stop attempts to restrict access to care.

Cuts Impact Mental Health Services
Daily Record
May 17, 2010
Phyllis Lakin

From Hope, a blogger at BlueJersey.com (April 8, 2010):
"Our friends the insurance companies
The Courier-Post describes how the New Jersey Psychological Association is suing insurance companies for trying to not cover consoling for rape victims. The companies ask so many questions about the "necessity" of treatment it discourages many."

Protect the Privacy of Mental Health Patients From Prodding Insurance Companies
Asbury Park Press Editorial
April 5, 2010

After Rape, A New Trauma
Asbury Park Press
April 4, 2010
Jean Mickle

New Jersey Psychological Association Sues New Jersey Health
Benefits Commission Over Requests for Therapists Treatment Notes

March 29, 2010
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Where Are Your Mental Health Records?
March 9, 2010
Sierra Black

A Bitter Pill: Fighting Back Against Insurers
The Dylan Ratigan Show - MSNBC
March 8, 2010

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Lawsuit Challenges Insurance Practices (audio and text available)
WHYY -  Philadelphia Public Radio
March 2, 2010
Maiken Scott

Psychologists File Lawsuit Against New Jersey Insurers Over Privacy Violation
Mental Health Weekly
March 1, 2010

Horizon, Magellan say N.J. psychologists’ privacy suit ‘without merit’
Insurance and Financial Advisor: IFAwebnews.com
February 25, 2010
Keith L. Martin

"N.J. psychological group sues health insurers over confidential patient record requests"
The Star Ledger and The [Bergen] Record
February 24, 2010
Susan K. Livio

“Psychologists Say New Jersey’s Largest Health Plan Violates
Patient Privacy, Restricts Access to Care and Wastes Taxpayer Money”

February 23, 2010

Mental Health Services in the news

Firms Put Limits on Mental Therapy: New Scrutiny May Break Federal Law Opponents Allege
The Boston Globe
May 17, 2010
Kay Lazar

Childhood psychological problems create long-term economic losses, study finds
Costs $2.1 Trillion!!  Treating MH problem early is MUCH cheaper, so why try to save money by limiting access?
Science Daily
May 14, 2010

Fight Erupts Over Rules Issued For "Mental Health Parity" Insurance Law
The New York Times
May 9, 2010
Robert Pear
Follow-up letter to the Editor: Mental Health Parity
May 10, 2010
Linda Rosenberg, National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

Rape Victim's Choice: Risk AIDS or Health Insurance?:
The Huffington Post
October 21, 2009
Danielle Ivory

Patient Privacy in the news

P2P Networks a Treasure Trove of Leaked Healthcare Data, Study Find
Eight months after passage of HITECH Act, data leaks still a problem in healthcare industry
May 17, 2010
Jaikumar Vijayan

The Medical Center has Security Breach
Glasgow Daily Times
April 28, 2010
Gina Kinslow
Another computer hard drive stolen, jeopardizing patient's health information privacy

Affinity Health Plan Notifies Over 409,000 of Breach
April 20, 2010
A managed care company in New York City finds that patient information was on a copier that they leased and returned to the leasing company without erasing the data,

BCBS of TN Hard Drive Theft Now Threatens 1 Million Customers
HealthLeaders Media
April 9, 2010
John Commins
57 hard drives are stolen with protected health information on them, unencrypted.  Our lawsuit aims to keep deeply personal MH information off those type of hard drives in NJ (Thanks to Ken Pope for sending this to us).

Your health, tax, and search data siphoned
The Register
March 23, 2010
Dan Goodin
See how private data can be stolen, even encrypted; another reason why we defend patient privacy (Thanks to Ken Pope for send this to us)

Blue Cross is sued over disclosing woman's medical records
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
March 13, 2010
Lora Pabst
Accidents will happen - that's why we think private information should not go to insurance companies.  (Thanks to Ken Pope for pointing us to this.)

HHS website listing privacy security breaches affecting 500 or more individuals
This is why we feel so strongly about protecting patient privacy.  There have been 36 such breaches over just five months!  (Thanks to Ken Pope for pointing us to this.)