The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, is important because it protects patient privacy and ensures coverage of individuals with pre-existing conditions. Medical providers must ensure the privacy and confidentiality of patients' medical and billing records. Conversations between medical practitioners and patients are also protected.
To ensure that information remains secure, medical providers must ensure that records are safeguarded and that only authorized and trained personnel have access to them. Protected information cannot be shared without the patient's consent. Consent is not needed to share information to coordinate care, for billing purposes, to protect public health or when providers are legally required to report injuries, such as gunshot wounds. HIPPA gives patients the right to request copies of their medical records and request corrections if information is inaccurate.
HIPPA prohibits insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions if they have had coverage for at least 18 months with no more than a 63-day gap between coverage, have used up Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act coverage or state coverage options and are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. When a person leaves a health plan, the provider must give the individual a Certificate of Coverage to prove prior coverage when enrolling in a new plan.
HIPPA also ensures that people enrolling in a group health plan offered by an employer may not be denied coverage or charged a higher premium based on a pre-existing condition.