Korean government agency slammed for selling personal data to insurers

Fears of unethical behaviour by government in sale of data to insurers

Korean government agency slammed for selling personal data to insurers

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

A government body in South Korea is facing criticism after a legislator accused it of selling personal health and medical data to several private sector insurance companies.

Rep. Jung Choun-sook of the ruling Democratic Party said that the Health and Insurance Review & Assessment Service (HIRA) sold 52 “sample data sets” to eight insurers and two insurance research institutes in the period between July 2014 to August 2017.

According to a report by the Korean Biomedical Review, each data set was sold for KRW300,000 (US$267). The eight insurers Jung identified were AIA Life Korea, KB Life Insurance, KB Insurance, Lotte Non-Life Insurance, Mirae Asset Life Insurance, Hyundai Life Insurance, Heungkuk Fire and Marine Insurance, and SCOR Korea. Meanwhile, the Korea Insurance Development Institute and the Korea Insurance Research Institute were the research agencies that allegedly purchased the data.

Each data set contained de-identified information – where names and other information that could identify the individual are removed – such as age, sex, insurer codes, total amount of insurance payment, and outpatient prescriptions, for around 1 million to 1.4 million individuals.

According to the National Health Insurance Service, which has access to the same data sets as the HIRA, it does not allow any private sector insurer to access the data because “private insurers might make bad use of people’s health insurance and medical data to discriminate against certain subscribers with certain diseases, previous records of having a disease or other risk factors."

HIRA’s sale of the data drew condemnation from the medical industry and civic groups.

“HIRA should apologize to the public for selling their medical information to for-profit insurers,” said the Korean Medical Association, which also demanded state prosecutors to investigate the government agency.

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