An arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may have started a major new fight between patient privacy advocates and substance abuse benefits managers.

The agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), has updated the regulations that govern what exactly happens when patients seek care for problems with tobacco, alcohol or other substances and then sign blanket information release forms.

SAMHSA officials say lawful holders of the patients' information can share the patient's information with a wide range of entities involved in paying insurance claims, including billers, medical necessity reviewers, fraud fighters, customer service representatives and insurance underwriters, and those entities' subcontractors.

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Allison Bell

Allison Bell, ThinkAdvisor's insurance editor, previously was LifeHealthPro's health insurance editor. She has a bachelor's degree in economics from Washington University in St. Louis and a master's degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Think_Allison.