External Appeal of Adverse Health Plan Decisions

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) added many protections for the consumer of health care. One of them is the right to appeal decisions made by your health plan (as long as the health plan was created after March 23, 2010). Prior to the enactment of the ACA, consumers could only appeal an adverse decision through the internal process of their health plan. Oftentimes, these appeals were strenuous and unsuccessful.

Now, thanks to the ACA, the consumer can ask an independent and neutral decision maker to review the health plan’s adverse decision. In Colorado, the Division of Insurance is a great resource for consumers who have questions regarding an adverse decision they have received from their health plan. On their consumer assistance website, you can file a complaint against the health plan or request assistance with the appeals process.

Heartbleed: a pervasive security bug

Time to change your passwords!

Heartbleed, a security bug, allows people to steal information normally protected by the SSL/TLS encryption used to keep information on the Internet private. Normally, “https://” at the beginning of a web address indicates that the information that you are entering into that web page will be secure because of this SSL/TLS encryption. However, Heartbleed allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of systems protected by certain vulnerable versions of SSL/TLS software.

Although many websites have fixed this vulnerability, it’s still better to be safe and change your passwords in case they were compromised. For more information on this, see CNet’s gaggle of posts. You can test to see if a website has fixed this vulnerability by using this online tool.

Buying a Prepaid Debit Card? Read that arbitration clause!

Prepaid debit card use has increased drastically over the last decade. In 2016, Forbes projects that 29.2 million cards will be active, indicating an average growth rate of 19.7%. While some prepaid debit cards have no activation fees, monthly fees, or card replacement fee, other cards are less advantageous for consumers. Fees can often be up to $20 for activation, $4 for monthly maintenance, $5 to reload funds, $1 just to make a purchase, and the list goes on.

Often these cards contain mandatory arbitration provisions that take away a cardholder’s right to join a class action suit against this issuer or engage in a class-arbitration. As a result, it can be very expensive, costly, and time-consuming to assert your rights if you have a dispute with a prepaid debit card issuer. Most consumers do not read their cardholder agreements before buying a prepaid debit card, but savvy consumers do. Open the package and read the agreement or go online and look up the cardholder agreement for the card that you are thinking about buying.

While arbitration agreements may not seem like an important part of your purchase, they are. If you do have a dispute, your rights can drastically be affected by the “fine print”. Many consumers only care about arbitration provisions before it is too late.

The White House View on Information Privacy and Big Data

The White House has begun to look into what companies do with consumer information and recently completed a report on big data. The report looks at the use of information both by companies and the government. It analyzes areas including education, healthcare, advertising, law enforcement privacy law, and discrimination. The full 85 page report can be found at: The White House’s View on Information Privacy and Big Data.

The report includes a number of policy suggestions which contain a combination of technological and legal solutions to the issues raised by big data. The six recommendations from the report are:

  1. Advance the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The Department of Commerce should take appropriate consultative steps to seek stakeholder and public comment on big data developments and how they impact the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and then devise draft legislative text for consideration by stakeholders and submission by the President to Congress.
  2. Pass National Data Breach Legislation. Congress should pass legislation that provides for a single national data breach standard along the lines of the Administration’s May 2011 Cybersecurity legislative proposal.
  3. Extend Privacy Protections to non-U.S. Persons. The Office of Management and Budget should work with departments and agencies to apply the Privacy Act of 1974 to non-U.S. persons where practicable, or to establish alternative privacy policies that apply appropriate and meaningful protections to personal information regardless of a person’s nationality.
  4. Ensure Data Collected on Students in School is Used for Educational Purposes. The federal government must ensure that privacy regulations protect students against having their data being shared or used inappropriately, especially when the data is gathered in an educational context.
  5. Expand Technical Expertise to Stop Discrimination. The federal government’s lead civil rights and consumer protection agencies should expand their technical expertise to be able to identify practices and outcomes facilitated by big data analytics that have a discriminatory impact on protected classes, and develop a plan for investigating and resolving violations of law.
  6. Amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Congress should amend ECPA to ensure the standard of protection for online, digital content is consistent with that afforded in the physical world—including by removing archaic distinctions between email left unread or over a certain age.


If you are interested in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights mentioned in the first suggestion, it can be found at the following link: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/privacy-final.pdf.

As the report points out, consumers deserve more transparency about how their data is shared. Here are two links to learn about what companies know and have been doing with consumer information:


This webpage contains a report compiled by the World Privacy Forum describing different ways companies are creating scores about consumers. For example, one company is able to use information it knows to predict how likely it is a person will take their medications as ordered by a doctor. Another is the consumer profitability score, used to predict how much money a company can make off of you.


This webpage contains a number of articles by the Wall Street Journal about what companies and the government know about you.