What is HIPAA? Answers to Frequently Asked Questions


Most of us believe that our medical and other health information is private and should be protected, and we want to know who has this information. In a world that in continuously becoming more connected, the exchange of such information is simplified, and there was an increasing risk that it could end up in places we may not want. With that in mind, in 1996, Congress passed a set of statutes known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or in more common lingo, HIPAA.

While most have heard the term HIPAA used in some context before, many still don’t know exactly what it means to them.

Basically, HIPAA contains two major parts that are applicable to each of us as consumers of health insurance and medical services. Those are the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule.

The Privacy Rule gives consumers rights over their health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive that information. For example, medical conditions, history or past treatments are protected information under HIPAA. It applies to any form of medical information- whether written, oral or electronic which a “covered entity” (i.e. health care providers; insurance companies) has on you.

The Security Rule sets standards which must be followed by those entities to ensure that your health information in electronic form remains secure.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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