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How Does HIPAA Protect My Personal Health Information?

How Does HIPAA Protect My Personal Health Information?

The privacy provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) ensures that personally identifying health information is kept confidential and secure

HIPPA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It was enacted to meet two goals. The first was to allow individuals to maintain insurance coverage when changing jobs. The second was to ensure that patient information is kept secure and confidential.

Entities Covered by HIPPA Regulations

A publication by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) entitled Summary of the HIPPA Privacy Rule explains that HIPPA privacy regulations apply to healthcare plans, clearinghouses and providers who transmit certain patient information. The aim is to both protect the privacy of individuals accessing healthcare and to allow for sharing of data needed for insurance and public health purposes. The law protects individually identifiable health information, including that related to the past, present, or future physical or mental health of individuals and the healthcare they received.

Healthcare providers covered by the privacy law include all those who furnish, bill, or are paid for health care. This includes institutions such as hospitals, and non-institutional caregivers such as physicians and dentists. Providers may need to share patient information regarding such things as insurance claims, inquiries regarding benefit eligibility, and authorizations for referrals. HIPPA provisions are in effect whether the providers directly transmit information or use a billing or other third party service.

Health plans that are covered by HIPPA regulations include individual and group insurance plans, both public and private, and health maintenance organizations. Health, prescription, dental, and vision plans are covered as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Although they may voluntarily implement their own privacy regulations, group health plans with less than 50 members that are administered and maintained solely by an employer and no outside organization are not covered.

Your Rights to Your Own Information

An HHS publication entitled notes the following rights that individuals have to their own information:

  • The right to see it. Individuals are allowed to see or receive copies of their own medical records. It may be necessary to make the request in writing and to pay for copying and mailing. Generally, copies must be produced within 30 days.
  • The right to know who else has seen it. Sometimes, non-identifying aggregate data, such as how many people have the flu in a given area, is shared with public health entities. Often, people can find out who has received such information. Generally, people’s personal health information cannot be shared with any person or entity for purposes not directly related to their care without their written permission.
  • The right to request restrictions. People may ask for specific restrictions on sharing their health information. If, for example, people pay for healthcare or drugs in full without billing their insurance company, they can ask their healthcare providers or pharmacies not to inform the insurance company of the care or drugs they received. If care is received in a clinic, people may ask their doctors not to share their medical information with other doctors or nurses who work there.
  • The right to challenge information. If people find items in their files that they believe to be wrong, missing, or incomplete, they can ask to change or add to them. Even when there are disagreements between individuals and their health care providers regarding the accuracy of information, the disagreements must be noted. Generally, files are updated within 60 days.
  • The right to be contacted in a chosen way. Sometimes people prefer not to be contacted on their home phone number or email account and can ask that alternative communication methods be used. Sometimes people ask that mail sent to them be sent in an envelope rather than a postcard.

HIPPA regulations do not prohibit healthcare providers from sharing information with the family members and friends of patients if the patients give permission for them to do so. The law also allows healthcare workers to give medical supplies, prescription drugs, x-rays and other healthcare-related items to family members or friends who have been sent by the patient to pick them up. Occasionally, when patients are unconscious or cannot be consulted for another reason, and healthcare providers believe sharing information is in their best interest, friends or family members may be informed about pertinent aspects of care without the patient’s express permission.

Filing a Complaint

People who believe their privacy rights have been violated may file complaints with their healthcare providers, insurers, or the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). On a webpage entitled Health Information Privacy, HHS states that complaints made to the OCR should be filed in writing and within 180 days of discovering or suspecting the breach. Forms can be accessed online or through OCR regional offices. HIPPA regulations prohibit entities from retaliating against people who file complaints.

You Can Begin Your Recovery Journey Today

Sometimes people fear receiving needed treatment for an addiction to clonazepam or other prescription drug because of privacy concerns, but privacy is ensured by law. If you would like to know more about clonazepam addiction treatment and your treatment options, give us a call. Our helpline is available 24 hours a day and is toll-free. We can answer your questions and can even check your health insurance coverage for you if you wish, at no cost or obligation. Why not begin your journey of recovery today?