2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Brianna Boone

Brianna Boone

Name of Host Organization: Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women
City, State: St. Paul, Minnesota
Issue area: Domestic Violence, Health Care
Sponsors: Medtronic; Robins Kaplan LLP

The Project

Brianna will ensure domestic violence victims can access confidential health services by protecting victim rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) through legal education, policy change, and direct representation.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Many domestic violence victims cannot access health services without the knowledge of an abuser. This happens because many victims are insured as dependents on an abuser’s health insurance policy, and Minnesota law requires health insurance providers to send a policyholder an explanation of benefits anytime someone uses the policy to pay for healthcare. As a result, many victims forgo receiving important health services out of fear an abuser will find out and become violent. Although HIPAA allows victims to request that health insurance providers do not disclose healthcare information to a policyholder, almost no one knows this protection exists, and it is rarely used. Additionally, most insurance companies do not have methods in place for processing requests, so there is a high risk that insurance companies will violate victims’ confidentiality rights when requests are made
The Right Person For This Project: 
Brianna is the right person for the project because:
• She is passionate about fighting domestic violence in holistic ways that address victim needs outside the criminal and family law systems
• She has prior experience working on domestic violence issues in Minnesota and knows the community
• She has previously worked with health service providers and the Minnesota Department of Health on domestic violence policy issues
• She has a background in reproductive justice and knows how important it is that victims be able to take control of their reproductive health
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Brianna will:
• Provide at least two trainings to victims, advocates, and health service providers on how to make confidential communications requests under HIPAA
• Develop a standard form for confidential communications requests, and disseminate to health service providers
• Begin working with the Minnesota Department of Health to require health insurance companies to accept requests made with the standard form
• Convene a policy committee comprised of advocates, victims, health service providers, and attorneys, and meet at least twice to develop a policy action plan
• Reach out to at least five pro bono attorneys willing to help victims file administrative and/or civil claims, and develop a process for client intake

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