How Does HIPAA Protect My Personal Health Information?

How Does HIPAA Protect My Personal Health Information?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 as a way to ensure certain coverage and privacy rights related to the increasingly automated and digitized world of medical records and insurance coverage for American citizens. Although the minutia of the law can be overwhelming for laypeople, the bottom line is that information related to your health care, and your payment for health care, is now protected by stringent Federal law. No information about your medical treatment can be released to unauthorized third parties without your express consent. This guarantee of confidentiality has helped many people seek treatment for disorders they would rather keep private.

HIPAA Title 1: Health Care Access, Portability, and Renewability

The first section of the HIPAA code established strong protection of insurance coverage for a person who lost employment. Under this rule anyone with established group coverage must be allowed to continue to maintain that coverage for up to 18 months if a new job with group benefits was not found. These continuing benefits helped to prevent people from losing all coverage or from being denied future coverage for “pre-existing conditions.” Since the passage of HIPAA many changes have been made to the health care coverage of Americans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as “Obamacare.” Between these two laws millions of people now have access to health care that would have previously been unavailable or unaffordable. Many are now able to take advantage of mandatory coverage for certain types of treatment that used to be considered optional, including addiction recovery treatment.

Title 2: Informational Simplification and Fraud Protection

The second section of the HIPAA code creates strong protection of most of the data surrounding your care. The following types of information are considered “protected health information,” or PHI:

  • Name
  • Address info (other than state)
  • Email address
  • Social security number
  • Medical record number (“locator” numbers)
  • Health insurance account or member numbers
  • Account numbers
  • Full face photo
  • Biometrics (fingerprints, voice prints, retinal prints, blood work)
  • Vehicle information
  • Payment history

You may have noticed that every time you visit a new doctor, dentist, or specialist you are given several pages of information to read and sign. These are the forms that confirm how the practitioner will and will not use your medical information. While this procedure may seem like a hassle, it has been proven to be an effective prevention against identity theft and insurance fraud. It also prevents sensitive information about your health or treatment from falling into the wrong hands. An employer, for instance, would not be able to find your medical history by running a simple background check

How HIPAA Affects You Directly

HIPAA rules have directly impacted Americans in the following ways:

  • When you change doctors you must sign a release form for your records to be transferred
  • Employers and insurance companies are not allowed to check your medical history
  • Other than in issues of criminality, your medical treatment, prescriptions, and financial information remain carefully protected by your provider(s)
  • By legislating that all providers must use a common protocol for the storage of records, the odds of harmful medical interactions or treatment redundancy are greatly reduced

Thanks to HIPAA all medical records are now digital and can be transferred upon request. This makes patients safer and doctors more effective. While you may see few of the impacts of these changes with your own eyes, behind the scenes the shift is massive.

HIPAA and Addiction Recovery

Treatment for addiction to prescription medication such as Ativan is one of the most sensitive forms of medical care a person can receive. Most individuals, however, desire to keep their addiction treatment private. The most effective modern programs develop customized treatment plans for each individual client that involve the following types of therapy:

  • Individual counseling (various styles)
  • Coping skill development and coaching
  • Empowering education about the psychological and physiology of addiction
  • Support group meetings
  • Medically supervised detox
  • Spiritual and moral support
  • Creative expression of different forms (painting, poetry, songwriting, journaling, music)
  • Comprehensive treatment of any co-occurring disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)

Addiction is a serious physical and psychological disorder, but with the proper treatment it can be successfully overcome. There is certainly nothing any more shameful about receiving addiction treatment than there is in receiving treatment for cancer or internal injuries, but the unfair social stigma certainly exists. It makes sense that you might want to keep addiction treatment, or any other medical care, confidential between you, your loved ones, and your provider. HIPAA rules protect that confidentiality.

24-Hour Informational Helpline

If or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to Ativan or other substance and you would like more information about treatment and how HIPAA regulations protect your personal health information, please call our toll-free helpline right now. Our staff members are available 24 hours a day with free, confidential advice and access to the most successful specialized treatment programs available. There are no strings attached when you call and you can remain completely anonymous if you choose. We’re simply here to help you navigate and important, and potentially confusing, situation.