Foreign Workers' Medical Records to Become Confidential

Following plea from human rights group, treasury orders insurance companies, employers to protect workers' medical immunity.

The Finance Ministry's insurance supervisor Yadin Entebbe told insurance companies and employers on Monday that they are obligated to keep foreign workers' medical records private and to protect medical immunity.

The new order is scheduled to go into effect in two months. It is designed to end the current situation in which insurance companies, whose job is to insure all legal foreign workers with medical insurance, release the workers' confidential medical records to their employers, therefore breaking the law.

According to the new rules, "the individual's right to privacy and secrecy regarding his physical or mental health, or medical treatment, is protected by the defense of privacy law and the patient's rights law," said Entebbe.

The new order was initiated after the organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) asked the insurance supervisor a few months ago to investigate the unjustified job dismissal of a foreign worker from Romania. Following a routine medical check-up at the insurance company's doctor, it was found, in blood tests taken, that she carried the hepatitis virus.

"The insurance company reported the hepatitis to the employer, who dismissed the worker immediately? she was arrested and deported from the country before her work contract expired," said MK Ran Cohen, project director of the Migrant Workers, Refugees and Asylum Seekers Project in PHR.

According to the new rules, all medical information, including the medical file of the foreign worker, will only be transferred from the insurance company to the worker. The insurance companies are prohibited to pass information on the medical state of a worker who is medically insured by his or her employer or manpower company. Also, the insurance companies will be prohibited to have foreign workers sign a concession form, yielding their private medical information, which would allow the employer to know the workers' medical state.