What Is HIPAA?

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What Is HIPAA?

HIPAA is an acronym for “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” of the United States. Introduced in 1996, HIPAA was put into law to help employees in between jobs to still have health insurance coverage.  It was difficult in the past to change insurance providers due to lowered coverage and high premiums.  The law also ensures protection of every patient’s health information and provides for standardization of healthcare information systems.

There are two sections to HIPAA.  The first section involves protection for people who change or loose their jobs.  While the second section deals with simplification and standardization of health information systems across the country.  In the IT industry in particular, HIPAA seeks to standardize procedures related to electronic data-sharing, security, and health information confidentiality.  Under HIPAA, all patient-related data, whether it be health, financial, or administrative-related, should be in a standard format.  Unique identifying codes are also given to healthcare entities, employers, health plans, and healthcare providers.  Security measures must also make sure that healthcare data integrity and confidentiality are protected.

Before HIPAA was implemented, people who transfer jobs may forgo health insurance coverage because of higher premiums.  Some may also not be able to have the same health coverage from the previous employer.  As in the case for “pre-existing conditions”, a health need previously covered from your former insurance company may not be covered anymore by your new employer’s healthcare provider.  It is through HIPAA that an employee’s insurance coverage is continued and protected, making the system “portable” between the two healthcare or insurance providers.

HIPAA also ensures confidentiality of health care information.  Standardization of procedures on a national level is implemented in the exchange and use of patient records among health care providers, insurance companies, employers, and even pharmacies.  Clear boundaries are set to minimize chances of inappropriate disclosure of patient records.

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