|The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA
has two purposes. The first, "portability," allows an employee
to keep their current health insurance even if they should
happen to leave their current place of employment. This is
easily done thanks to plans such as COBRA. The second part,
"accountability," means that the government can now regulate
healthcare providers, health plans, payers, clearinghouses, and
anyone else that might coordinate health data, for complete
privacy and security. If an employer provides any type of
on-site health care, that employer must also comply by HIPAA
It means that if personal information is stored on computer
databases, tapes, disks, or transmitted with the assistance of
faxes or the Internet, in addition to anything written down or
talked about, steps must be taken to ensure a patient's privacy.
This also means that, in addition to protecting your privacy,
the electronic exchange of financial or administrative
information must now be standardized.
Penalties for non-compliance can include fines that range from
$100 per person per violation up to $25,000 per year and/or up
to ten years imprisonment.
The process is complaint driven and only covers health care
providers and health plans. It doesn't mean that a friend or
family member can't discuss someone's medical issues with
another party. Relatives may talk freely about what they may
have discussed with health care providers. Journalists may
report on a subject's medical condition, but the information
that can be disclosed by a doctor or hospital is limited. These
restrictions also don't apply to police, firefighters, coaches,
trainers or teachers.
If you feel your privacy has been violated, you can issue a
complaint with your healthcare provider or the DHHS. Your health
information is privileged and anyone can use this information
against you. The HIPAA was designed to combat this. Your health
care professional now has to make sure your information stays
confidential unless you request otherwise.
About the author:
James Hunt has spent 15 years as a professional writer and
researcher covering stories that cover a whole spectrum of
interest. Read more at www.hipaa-central.info
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