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Some New Yorkers Ask Insurance Department For Right To Sue Insurers Over Privacy Violations

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NU Online News Service, June 1, 2:35 p.m. – The New York State Insurance Department has renewed its temporary, emergency adoption of a new consumer financial and health information privacy regulation, Regulation 169, for the third time.

The department is taking the many steps necessary to adopt the regulation on a permanent basis to comply with the privacy provisions of the federal Gramm-Leach-Blilely Financial Services Modernization Act.

New York law permits the department to adopt some regulations for 90 days at a time on an emergency basis while it is seeking permanent approval.

The privacy regulation requires insurers to send customers annual privacy notices; give customers a chance to opt out of sharing personal financial information; and share personal health information only if customers actively agree to sharing of that information.

The New York department says most members of the public who have commented on the regulation want tougher privacy rules.

Several commenters have asked the department to give consumers the right to sue insurers for illegal disclosure of personal financial and medical information.

“The department does not believe that it is within the authority of the department as an administrative agency to establish private causes of action,” the department says in an assessment of the comments. “Legislative action would be necessary to accomplish this objective.”

Some members of the public have asked the department to forbid insurers from disclosing Social Security numbers.

“There is currently no federal law governing the sharing of Social Security numbers,” the department says. “An important objective of the department has been to establish consistent regulations across all 51 jurisdictions and to maintain a level playing field between insurance and other financial service providers in New York state. The department believes that consistency with the federal regulations, and among the state insurance regulators, was a significant goal, and the proposed regulation reflects this goal. Moreover, the federal government is best able to address restrictions on the sharing of Social Security numbers.”

The text of the regulation and a summary are available on the New York department Web site, at