The Office of General Counsel issued the following informal opinion on May 4, 2001, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.

Re:  N.Y. Comp. Codes, R. & Regs. tit. 11 § 420.17 (Reg. 169); Disclosure of Health Information

Attorney A has expressed concerns regarding the disclosure of nonpublic personal health information. While the Department understands Attorney A’s concerns, the Department believes that Attorney A’s concerns are addressed by Section 420.17 of Regulation 169. Section 420.17(a) prohibits a licensee from "disclos(ing) nonpublic personal health information about a consumer or a customer unless an authorization is obtained from the consumer or customer whose nonpublic personal health information is sought to be disclosed." The exceptions to this requirement are contained in Section 420.17(b). Unless one of the exceptions is applicable, nonpublic personal health information can not be disclosed without the customer or the consumer’s authorization.

With respect to nonpublic personal financial information, unless the disclosure comes within one of the exceptions applicable to disclosure of nonpublic personal financial information, a licensee may not directly or through an affiliate disclose any nonpublic personal financial information about a consumer to a nonaffiliated third party unless the licensee has provided the consumer an opt out notice, and, after a reasonable amount of time, the consumer has not opted out. Although, as Attorney A states in her letter, this requirement does not apply to a disclosure being made to an affiliated third party, only nonpublic personal financial information could be disclosed to the affiliated third party. As noted above, with respect to nonpublic personal health information, there must either be an authorization or the disclosure must fall within Section 420.17(b). Accordingly, the Department does not believe that a Circular Letter is necessary to protect consumers’ and customers’ nonpublic personal health information.

For further information you may contact Senior Deputy Superintendent & General Counsel Kevin M. Rampe at the New York City Office.