Understanding HIPAA

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This is an act of law established in 1996 as a way to protect personal health information. It dictates the way that health care providers are supposed to care for personal information and it also allows patients with access to that information. If you have ever had to sign a waiver that gave your spouse access to your medical records, you have encountered the effects of HIPAA.


The Beginning for HIPAA

Most organizations started enforcing HIPAA laws on Aril 14, 2003, but some small insurance companies were given an additional year to take action. Since that time, many healthcare facilities have focused on providing patients with optimal privacy protection. These organizations faced customer complaints, investigations and additional training if they did not comply with the rules for HIPAA.

HIPAA Laws, Rules, and Regulations

The most significant part of HIPAA is the Privacy Rule, which grants patients the right to access their personal health information. According to this rule, you may get copies of your health records and grant others permission to access them. You may also correct information on file and allow someone else to speak about your health over the phone. The Privacy Rule allows you to set limitations for electronic, written, and verbal communications associated with your health information.

All information recorded by health care providers will fall under HIPAA legislation. That includes billing information, insurance information, medical records, prescription records, and more. Health care providers and clearinghouses alike must abide by the Privacy Rule.

HIPAA Complaints

If a patient feels that his or her information is not being properly protected, he or she may lodge a complaint about the matter. This can be done through an insurance company, a health care facility, or a government office. Complaints must be issued within 180 days of a violation, but they can be submitted online, in the mail, or through a fax. In rare instances, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) might allow longer than the 180 day period, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. If you want to submit your complaint to the U.S. government, this is the department you will need to contact.

HIPAA laws were designed to protect you and your personal health information. If you would like to learn more about the specific features of these laws, check out the resources below. Here is a comprehensive list of HIPAA resources online, courtesy of AspiringNurse.com:

  • HIPAA Regulations: This is information about the regulations under HIPAA.
  • Is This a Covered Entity?: This link will help you determine if your health care provider is covered under HIPAA laws.
  • HIPAA Article: This is an article about how HIPAA has changed the health care industry.
  • HIPAA: This is the official link to HIPAA.org, the ultimate resource for information about HIPAA.
  • HIPAA News: This resource provides up to date news and events for HIPAA laws.
  • HIPAA Information: This is a government resource containing consumer information on HIPAA.
  • Filing a Complaint: This guide from the government explains how to go about filing a complaint.
  • Covered Entity Charts: This is a set of charts that highlight the organizations covered under HIPAA.
  • HIPAA Myths and Facts: This resource weeds out the truth and lies about HIPAA to prevent confusion in the medical field.
  • HIPAA Resources: This is a large list with links to information about HIPAA.
  • HIPAA Student Health Services: This resource is provided by the American College Health Association, and it provides information specifically for students.
  • Authorization Form: This is an example of the form used to issue a complaint.
  • HIPAA Frequently Asked Questions: This resource provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding HIPAA laws.
  • Privacy Rule Booklet: This is a downloadable booklet that goes over elements of the Privacy Rule.
  • HIPAA Research Impact: This resource provides links showing how HIPAA has impacted medical research. .
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule and Public Health: This is a comprehensive overview of HIPAA laws, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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