HIPAA, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
Carrier Law has added to its Estate Planning and Elder Law arsenal of tools a HIPAA authorization in accordance to the Health Insurance and Accountability Act’s provisions.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA is an abbreviation for “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act”. In 1996, Congress enacted HIPAA to protect individually identifiable health care information from being disclosed to an unauthorized individual. In 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) finalized standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information.
HIPAA requires any health care entity, including a physician’s office, a hospital or other health care facility, or an insurer, that deals with personal health information to follow strict rules about how to handle protected information. For example, Health and Human Services allows physicians and insurance companies to exchange individually identifiable health information to pay a health claim but would not allow them to release it publicly.
HIPAA also limits the ability of a new employer health plan to exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. This means a person who has health insurance coverage can change jobs — and therefore health plans — without worrying that a condition that they already have, such as diabetes or asthma, would not be covered under the new health plan.
Some Pros and Cons of HIPAA
HIPAA benefits for the patient:
- Grants the patient the legal right to see, copy, and correct their personal medical information.
- Prevents employers from accessing and using personal health information to make employment decisions.
- Enables patients with pre-existing conditions to change jobs without worrying that their conditions would not be covered under a new employer’s health plan.
HIPAA’s effects have not all been positive.
- In a time of a medical crisis, a patient may be incapacitated and not able sign a HIPAA authorization granting someone access to needed medical information. Therefore, the HIPAA authorization must be signed and in place before the medical crisis arises.
- The American Medical Association claims that the HIPAA regulations are a tremendous burden on the doctors and healthcare providers to comply with the complicated rules.
- HIPAA has spawned a mini-industry of companies and consultants who help medical professionals comply with the law’s lengthy provisions. All adding to the cost of healthcare.
- Some professionals who deal with medical paperwork have become overcautious about releasing protected information. For example, some physician’s offices now refuse to mail test results, requiring patients to pick them up in person. Some hospitals require physicians to submit written requests on their own letterhead for information on a patient’s condition, when the law allows this information to be provided by phone.
Carrier Law Cares
To make sure you are prepared in a time of medical crisis to allow authorized individuals access to your health care information, Carrier Law will provide, upon request, free of charge to all Carrier Law’s past and current clients a HIPAA authorization. Call our office for details.