HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and it is a law that was enacted in 1996 that protects patient confidentiality, makes it easier for individuals to keep health insurance and provides security measures for confidential health care information, according to the state of Tennessee's Department of Health. HIPAA also helps to control administrative costs within the health care sector.
Under HIPAA, health insurance for individuals is portable between jobs. This ensures that a job loss does not cause a lapse in insurance coverage while at the same time restricts health insurance carriers from prohibiting coverage based on pre-existing conditions, notes the Tennessee Department of Health.
Standards for transmitting, receiving and maintaining information in regards to health care were established under HIPAA. This includes electronic data requirements that move records to electronic storage instead of manual storage in an effort to reduce rates of errors.
HIPAA laws cover health plans, hospitals, doctors and even access by family members. All medical professionals are required to ensure that patient information is hidden from public view at all times. This may mean locking computers, using special electronic cover sheets for fax and email, or requiring special authorization to be on file to share patient information with others outside of the medical practice.
HIPAA brought sweeping privacy changes to health care settings. Under HIPAA, the privacy of patients must be respected in all organizations providing medical care or health maintenance.
Compliance with HIPAA regulations is required by all health care providers, including any provider that bills or is paid for healthcare services. Compliance is required for all health care clearinghouses, which are businesses such as hospital billing services that process health information. Health plans must also adhere to HIPAA rules.