What Does HIPAA Mean To You?
If you have been to any medical professional since 1996 you know that you are always given a HIPAA notice to sign. This notice is supposed to tell a patient their rights for privacy – but have any of you ever read it? What exactly is it referring to.
What is HIPAA
HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was passed initially in 1996 and amended in 2013. This act allows workers who may change or lose their jobs, the ability to transfer and/or continue health insurance coverage. It strives to reduce health care fraud and abuse; mandates standards for health care information; mandates standards for electronic billing; and requires that health care information be protected and remain confidential.
How It All Began
I definitely remember medical coverage before 1996 and it is so much better since. I remember always being afraid that if my husband or I lost or changed our jobs, we would struggle with loss of coverage for a period of time due to pre-existing conditions. We have children who could not afford to go one month without coverage much less a six month waiting period. Back then we would just show up at a medical appointment and sign in. At walk in medical centers how did they really know who we were? They didn’t! Someone could clearly have “borrowed” another person’s medical card and sought medical care. Our medical information was not necessarily available as a free for all but pretty close.
What It Means To You And I
Now if you have a medical condition – as long as you will have medical coverage you can remain covered even if you switch employers. If you lose your job you can retain coverage for a period of time. You don’t need to worry about being pregnant and without coverage; being diabetic and unable to get supplies; being asthmatic and unable to get inhalers; having a heart attack and needing surgery etc… This act gives the benefit of continued coverage and continued care.
These days when you go to a medical appointment – especially with a new provider or walk in medical center, you are required to provide your medical card AND an ID like your license. With this extra measure, physicians are trying to make sure that John Smith is actually the person using the John Smith medical card. When we go to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions we are now always asked for our date of birth and sometimes even our license.
Today there are limits on health information disclosure. It can’t be distributed for marketing and fundraising purposes and may not be sold without authorization. We now have rights to electronic copies of information. There are so many more information rights and when there is a breach of the rules there are requirements to disclose the information. Written releases need to be provided now. If you are hospitalized one of the first things they will do is ask you to sign releases for your primary care physician or any other medical provider that may be helpful in the course of your care. The releases do not provide this authorization forever. It may be granted for a certain period of time or it will usually automatically no longer be valid after one full year. When we go to a medical provider we are automatically handed (and asked to sign verifying that we received) the HIPAA disclosure and use of information forms.
The Act is quite comprehensive so for more information on HIPAA check out these pcihipaa reviews.