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HIPAA
May 1, 2013

A number of times I have noticed that responses to questions included a statement that someone's health information was protected under HIPAA. Once it related to a school setting,and today, to the workplace. There seems to be a misunderstanding of when HIPAA applies. Healthcare providers who use electronic transactions (i..e, electronic billing to insurance companies) are considered to be "covered entities" under HIPAA. However, schools, and especially employers, are unlikely to be covered entities (or business associates of covered entities, such as third party billing companies, bound by contract to maintain confidentiality). It is important that people not assume that health information is covered by HIPAA in all circumstances, once it leaves the doctor's office. There may be other protections for sensitive information, but not necessarily HIPAA. Thank you.

Response from Mr. Chambers

Thank you for your contribution. Too often, people think that HIPAA protects all medical information regardless of who has it, and I admit to using that shortcut sometimes myself. Covered entities will expand as Affordable Care Act becomes fully implemented, but HIPAA does not apply to many yet.

You are absolutely correct that HIPAA only applies to "covered entities." A browser search will bring up several sites that clarify that, as much as any federal law can be clarified. One is here.

You also mention other protections. Many states have special restrictions on release of HIV information. This is why many medical release forms specify HIV as well as mental issues since they tend to have separate confidentiality laws.

Thank you again. Jacques



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