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Will You Release Your Medical Records?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, February 9, 2020

Just in the case you may not know it, there’s a law in our United States called HIPAA, which is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Signed into law in 1996 by then-POTUS Bill Clinton, the long title is “An Act To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1996 to improve portability and continuity of health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets, to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in health insurance and health care delivery, to promote the use of medical savings accounts, to improve access to long-term care services and coverage, to simplify the administration of health insurance, and for other purposes.”

The biggest takeaway from the bill for most people is the privacy it mandates for patient’s medical records, care, and treatment. With fines/penalties for violation starting at $250,000 per violation, an entire industry has grown up around HIPAA.

The Department of Health and Human Services summarizes, in part, the law’s privacy provisions:

“The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) required the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop regulations protecting the privacy and security of certain health information.1 To fulfill this requirement, HHS published what are commonly known as the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. The Privacy Rule, or Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, establishes national standards for the protection of certain health information. The Security Standards for the Protection of Electronic Protected Health Information (the Security Rule) establish a national set of security standards for protecting certain health information that is held or transferred in electronic form. The Security Rule operationalizes the protections contained in the Privacy Rule by addressing the technical and non-technical safeguards that organizations called “covered entities” must put in place to secure individuals’ “electronic protected health information” (e-PHI). Within HHS, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has responsibility for enforcing the Privacy and Security Rules with voluntary compliance activities and civil money penalties.”

POTUS Bill Clinton Signing HIPAA

Before the HIPAA existed, there were no security standards nor requirements to protect patients’ health information or patients privacy in the entire health care industry. In reality, physicians, or anyone with access to the record – including the janitor and housekeeping crew – could simply access and divulge a patient’s entire medical record to the press, or to anyone, without any legal recourse for the victim. Now, it’s a violation of the law to even discuss any Personal Health Information, or Personally Identifying Information about the patient outside of a clinical setting, and that includes on elevators in hospitals. The law is so strict, that anyone who is not involved in the patient’s care cannot access the patient’s record without violating the law.

There have been cases where renown individuals, or those with celebrity status, including politicians, have had their records accessed by those within the healthcare system in violation of the law, ostensibly to satisfy their 24karat curiosity, or for other nefarious purposes, such as to gossip about the patient, or to divulge the information they found to the press. Healthcare organizations, especially large ones, are particularly sensitive to such violations of the HIPAA, and many, if not most, have policy in place to censure, or most often, dismiss for cause (fire) any employee who examines a record of a patient whom they’re not treating, or caring for.

In short, the law safeguards and protects patients’ right to privacy of their healthcare information in ways the average patient cannot imagine, including transmission of such information electronically, such as via facsimile or Internet.

The law also provides authorization for a patient to request a healthcare organization voluntarily release select portions of, or their entire medical records, to individuals whom they specify, such as to attorneys who may be representing their interests in a matter of law, including to the patients themselves, personally.

What many may not know about the law, is that it was a bipartisan bill sponsored by Read the rest of this entry »

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