HIPAA: What More Do You Need to Know?

HIPAA: What More Do You Need to Know?

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When you go to a doctor, dentist or eye doctor, you are asked to sign that you’ve seen their privacy statement. What does that mean?

Thanks to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),   you are reminded at each visit that your health information will be private and used only for making sure you get the care you need.

Privacy Before HIPAA

Before HIPAA, a University of Illinois study found, more than one-third of Fortune 500 companies looked at health records or health information as part of their employment decisions.

Imagine worrying that a potential employer could refuse to hire you or your current employer could fire you if they found out that:

  • You’re a recovering addict
  • You may need to take extra time to handle your cancer treatment
  • You have HIV, Hepatitis C, or some other health issue
  • You receive care for mental health issues

Before HIPAA, this happened. It happened to FBI agents. It happened to truck drivers. It may have happened to you or someone you know. Since HIPAA was signed into law in 1996, employers have not been allowed to see your health information.

Privacy with HIPAA

Have you:

  • Been told to stand well back from the pharmacy counter?
  • Signed a privacy form when you see a new doctor or go to a hospital?
  • Found it impossible to get health information about a family member?

Though these steps may sometimes frustrate you, they are needed to protect your health information and that of others.

Things to Consider with HIPAA

Your adult child. Do you have a child going off to college? If your child is 18 or over, you may not be able to receive their health information as you had in the past. If you want to know about the health care services your child receives, you’ll need to fill out an authorization form — with your child’s written permission.

Helping loved ones with HIPAA. You notice an elderly family member having odd spells or memory issues. You want to know about their care and if there is anything you should be doing to help them. You’ll need an authorization or a power of attorney for health care from your family member before you can help. Completing one of these documents ahead of time can reduce the stress when an issue happens.

Your spouse has a serious illness. Cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, renal failure. These and other health problems can get critical fast. Make sure you can make decisions that will honor their wishes. Maybe they want to donate their body to science or to be an organ donor. Maybe they want a Do Not Resuscitate order on file. Be sure to complete the necessary forms so you can make or enforce those decisions if your spouse isn’t able to.

Privacy laws like HIPAA have made a difference in making sure your health problems are kept private. Make sure you know how they work and what you may need to do if you want others close to you to know more.

Originally published May 16,2016; Revised 2017, 2020, 2021, 2024

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