Aetna will pay a $17 million settlement following claims that it breached the privacy of customers who take HIV medications.
At the time, the New York City-based Legal Action Center, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia-headquartered Berger & Montague, P.C. filed a federal class action lawsuit against Aetna "for its repeated failure to respect the privacy rights of people taking HIV medication by mailing its customers Aetna envelopes where their HIV medication was visible through the large transparent window of the envelopes".
The lawsuit originated with a Pennsylvania man who said his sister learned he was taking HIV medication when she saw the envelope.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs announced the settlement Wednesday in Philadelphia.
The settlement include a base payment of $500 to everyone whose privacy was breached by the envelopes, with another 1,600 customers receiving $75 for the disclosure of their private information to Aetna's legal counsel and mail vendor.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, which is now subject to the Court's approval, Aetna has agreed to pay $17,161,200 to resolve the claims.
Court documents say the Hartford, Connecticut-based company sent a mailing in envelopes with large, clear display windows that revealed confidential HIV information. Aetna said that they responded through outreach efforts, an immediate relief program, and this settlement, in addition to implementing protection measures to prevent a similar breach from happening again, according to the article.
"HIV still has a negative stigma associated with it, and I am pleased that this encouraging agreement with Aetna shows that HIV-related information warrants special care", the lead plaintiff, who was prescribed PrEP said in a statement. "In addition, we are implementing measures created to ensure something like this does not happen again as part of the our commitment to best practices in protecting sensitive health information".
Aetna's July mailing, according to a Legal Action Center press release, "was an attempt to address privacy concerns raised in two lawsuits filed against the insurer in 2014 and 2015".