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HIPAA Law and Regulations

HIPAA Frequently Asked Questions


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What is the HIPAA Law?

HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 21, 1996. Most healthcare insurance companies and providers are to adhere to the HIPAA regulation guidelines by October 2002 and October 2003 for smaller health plans. The HIPAA law is a multi-step approach that is geared to improve the health insurance system. One approach of the HIPAA regulations is to protect privacy. This is in Title IV which defines rules for protection of patient information. All healthcare providers, health organizations, and government health plans that use, store, maintain, or transmit patient health care information are required to comply with the privacy regulations of the HIPAA law. Excluded are certain small, self-administered health organizations.

How Does the HIPAA Law Affect Me?

The complete HIPAA law is concentrated in simplifying the health care system and ensuring security for patients. Title IV is a safeguard ensuring the protection of privacy for your medical information. Along with federally ensuring your privacy, the HIPAA law is intended to lead to reduced fraudulent activity and improved data systems. When fully adhered to by all that are required to comply, HIPAA regulation is estimated to save providers nine billion dollars annually.

How do I Make Sure My Healthcare Provider is Taking Steps to Comply with the HIPAA Regulations?

Some health care providers have taken steps such as controlling access to offices with medical files by electronic key card systems and only allowing employees limited access to the minimum amount of information needed. In addition, the use of special services to make electronic transactions secure is also being used by many medical facilities and insurance providers. If you have concerns about what your health care provider or physician is doing to comply with the HIPAA law, ask them what steps they have taken to ensure your privacy and if they are taking more prevention measures in the future. If your health insurance is from a small, self-administered health organization, they may not have to comply to the HIPAA regulations. It is important to check with them to see if they are complying to the HIPAA regulations, and if not, what steps are they taking on their own to ensure your privacy.

Are there any Privacy Exceptions to the HIPAA Law? HIPAA's privacy exceptions give health care providers and others who are required to follow HIPAA an exception in some areas where they don't have to follow the rules outlined by the HIPAA law. It is important for a patient to know about the top three most common HIPAA privacy exceptions so they can be aware of what information about them may be legally disclosed without the HIPAA protection.

What do I do if I Suspect My Confidentiality has been Breached?

It is important to document all conversations with your health care provider about your breach of privacy. Also, if you have any paper documentation that relates to the concern, you will want to hold on to those. Contact your state insurance commissioner to report fraud from private insurance organizations or call 1-800-HHS-TIPS to report fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

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