New York State
Insurance Department


ISSUED: 4/18/2001

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DEPARTMENT REMINDS NY INSURANCE CONSUMERS TO CHECK THEIR MAILBOXES
Consumers Now Offered Important Choices Concerning Private Financial and Health Information

            Acting Superintendent Gregory V. Serio today reminded consumers that July 1 marks the effective date of new groundbreaking privacy protection. Insurance consumers in New York State will soon enjoy the strongest insurance privacy protections in the country through a new regulation adopted by the Department. For the first time New Yorkers will be able to make choices as to whether or not to allow their insurance carrier or agent to share nonpublic personal financial or health information with unaffiliated third parties.

            "July marks the beginning of this new era in privacy protection by providing the broadest possible privacy safeguards for financial information allowable by law," said Serio. "New York State’s new privacy regulation safeguards consumers’ confidential personal information and gives special protection to health-related information. Insurance consumers should carefully read the information that they receive from their insurance agents and insurance companies regarding the privacy of their nonpublic personal financial and health information and make informed choices."

            On or before July 1, all insurance customers will receive their first annual notice from their insurance company and their first opportunity to exercise this choice. This annual notice will set forth your insurance company’s information sharing practices and, the extent and the purposes for which your insurer shares your private financial information with affiliates and third parties. If you disagree with the information sharing practices, this annual notice will give you the opportunity to prevent unwanted disclosure to third parties. Consumers will also be notified whenever their insurance company or agent changes their information sharing practices. While limitations on the sharing of personal financial information among affiliates are prohibited pursuant to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, New York’s regulation provides the strongest possible protection available under law.

            New York is also leading the nation by providing consumers with the broadest protections available with respect to your private health information. Under the new regulation, no insurer can share your private health information without your express consent. Even if you grant your consent, the insurer may only use the information for the limited purposes for which the consent was granted and your consent is only valid for a maximum of two years.

            "Recent federal legislation allowing banks to combine with insurance companies benefited consumers greatly, resulting in enhanced competition, more efficient financial services organizations and innovative products and services being available under one roof," said Serio. "The new regulation ensures that privacy policies and practices that protect the consumer’s confidentiality of information are in place as New York continues to lead the way in implementing the law and shaping insurance regulation in this new era of financial services."

           Regulation 169 is available on the Department’s website at www.ins.state.ny.us.


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