If you’ve been to see your doctor, or any doctor, in the past three years, you probably signed a HIPAA notice that is kept inside of your medical chart. The HIPAA Act was passed in 1996. It’s purpose is to provide or establish standards for electronic health care transactions. It has, as a component, a security feature to protect the consumer in the handling of medical reports and health records. HIPAA does not replace the state as the primary regulator of health insurance.
Electronic transactions may include fax transmissions, electronic billing, email or any other electronic transaction.
HIPAA was implemented in the office for which I worked in April of 2004. The security and protection of the patient health information was highly emphasized since it involved all office staff and physicians. We received our training via video and were then tested. We set about to comply with the regulations as we were trained to do. Two years later, we still had staff members asking was it OK to fax certain documents and be in compliance with HIPAA.
Did you know that you do not have to give up your social security number to your health care provider? You may have to give it to your insurance provider, but not your doctor’s office.
Personnel may not discuss your personal health information in an open area, such as the reception desk where others might overhear. They may not leave your medical chart laying out in an open area where others have access to it. Access to your medical information is limited within the office. In a small office, that means virtually all staff will have access to your records for new chart set-up, medical and billing information. The lab of course will need to document tests and injections.
Here are some of the things that HIPAA does and does not do as posted in the CMS Web site.
1. It does increases your ability to get health coverage for yourself and your dependents. It does not guarantee health coverage.
2. It does limit the use of pre-existing condition exclusions. It doesn’t eliminate the exclusions.
3. It does help you maintain continuous health coverage when you change jobs.
4. It does prohibit group health plans from discrimination by denying coverage or charging extra for past or present poor health.
While there are some privacy protections and health insurance safeguards within the HIPAA Act, there are limits. HIPAA is a complex system with lots of arms and legs. IF you have questions about your rights of protection under this Act, visit the CMS Website and gather the information that will help you understand your question.