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HIPAA Compliance – Do You Know The Rules?

managing4-1-resized-600I was recently at my Doctor’s office for a standard sick visit.  Annoying cough, headache, etc.  Since I never go see my Doctor, they rarely have the most recent demographics for me.  This time, I had to sign all new updated forms for HIPAA compliance, and acknowledgement of their privacy policy.  I didn’t read the handouts they had, I just signed where it said “Patient Signature”.  Having worked in the medical field for the past 20 years, I know by now what HIPPA compliance is, but I appreciate that they legally have to remind me that they follow the rules.  Watching the people checking in after me, I noticed that they did the same thing I did; they just blindly signed the paper, and had a seat.  Surely those ten people don’t all coincidently work in the medical field.  Do they know that HIPAA pertains to more than just privacy?  Do you?  Keep reading!

HIPAA itself is an acronym for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  Signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, its main goal was to not only regulate how private health information is shared, but health care needed to be improved, and fraud needed to be reduced.  Every healthcare professional and their corresponding offices had until 2003 to comply with the new laws.  Everyone needs to be held to the same set of standards when it comes to safety and care of patients.

HIPAA regulations are broken up into two titles:

  • Title 1: Health Care Access, Portability and Renewability –  Pertaining to group insurance plans (through your employer), this forbids insurance companies from hiking up your rates, or denying you coverage based on your medical history.  You will pay the same rates as your hypertensive co-worker.  HIPAA also regulates how long the waiting period can be before you get coverage for pre-existing conditions through a new employer.  We’ve all been nagged to death more than once by HR about open enrollment – and you can thank HIPAA for that.  Don’t confuse group insurance rates with individual rates.  If you’re insured through your company through Anthem, and then leave the company, you can keep Anthem coverage, but you must pay individual rates.  In this case, you CAN be charged more for your health condition.

  • Title 2:  Preventing Health Care Fraud and Abuse; Administrative Simplification; Medical Liability Reform – the part of HIPAA we’re likely all familiar with.  This is broken down further into 5 rules;  The Privacy Rule, The Transactions and Code Sets Rule, The Security Rule, The Unique Identifiers rule, and The Enforcement Rule.  This title clearly illustrates offenses relating to healthcare, and consequences you can expect.  These consequences range from civil to criminal. Under this title fall the rules on PHI – Protected Health Information.  HIPAA regulates what is exactly protected, and how information can be transmitted electronically.  Since paper charts are becoming a thing of the past, it is more important now than ever before to ensure patient information is kept safe

There is obviously a lot more detail I could go into for both titles one and two, but you don’t have all day to read this blog!  If you visit: http://www.hipaa.org, you’ll get a plethora of information that you’ll find very helpful!  When it comes to HIPAA, remember this – just be smart!  Don’t talk about patients in an open, public area, scan all documents to secure software, and as a consumer or patient – know your rights!

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Bernd Group
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South Portland High School
School
Sappi Fine Paper
RG-E
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