What Is the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act?


Quick Answer

The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act is a U.S. law that Congress passed in 1966 that aims to ensure the privacy of medical information and aims to provide consumers ongoing health insurance coverage during employment changes, according to the University of Miami. HIPPA also attempts to reduce waste and fraud within the American health-care system by punishing health-care providers who commit fraud and abuse resources.

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Full Answer

HIPPA protects consumers by prohibiting health-care providers from releasing health-care records that contain personally identifying characteristics, explains the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If a breach of private information occurs, the entity involved in the breach must take steps to notify the affected consumers. The covered health-care provider may not communicate protected health information in any manner, including by word-of-mouth, electronically or in writing.

The requirements of HIPPA apply not only to doctors and hospitals, but also to others involved in the provision and administration of health care. Private and government health insurers must comply with HIPPA's confidentiality requirements, according to MRSC of Washington. The law also requires covered entities to provide copies of medical records to individual consumers if the consumers request the records. Despite disclosure restrictions, doctors may share information with nurses and others involved in medical treatment. Consumers receiving health-care treatment may also sign a waiver that allows a health-care provider to share the consumer's personal information with other entities such as banks or insurance companies.

To mainstream health-care services, HIPPA legislated standardized forms to use when entities share health-care information electronically. HIPPA legislation also requires health-care providers to implement security measures designed to keep information private, according to the University of Miami. Consumers have recourse through the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights in the event that a health-care provider violates HIPPA provisions that relate to consumer privacy.

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