The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that was enacted in 1996 to improve the portability and continuity of health insurance coverage. It is also in place to protect the privacy and security of personal health information.
The law applies to a wide range of entities. Specifically it applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers that transmit health information in electronic form.
One of the main provisions of HIPAA is the creation of national standards for the protection of personal health information. The law requires covered entities to implement administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of personal health information.
For example, covered entities must have policies and procedures in place to limit access to personal health information to authorized personnel. They must also have measures in place to detect and prevent unauthorized access or disclosure of personal health information.
HIPAA also provides individuals with certain rights with respect to their personal health information. Under the law, people have the right to request a copy of their personal health information. They also have the right to request corrections of errors or inaccuracies in their health records. HIPAA also gives individuals the right to request that their personal health information be kept confidential, and to be notified of any breaches of their personal health information.
One of the main goals of HIPAA is to improve the portability of health insurance coverage. Under HIPAA, individuals are allowed to enroll in a new health plan even if they have pre-existing medical conditions.
Additionally, HIPAA prohibits group health plans from imposing pre-existing condition exclusions or waiting periods for individuals who have had prior coverage. These provisions are designed to ensure that individuals are not denied coverage. It also protects against higher premiums due to pre-existing medical conditions.
HIPAA also includes provisions to improve the continuity of health insurance coverage. For example, the law requires group health plans to provide continuation of coverage to certain employees and their dependents when they leave their jobs. This is known as COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) continuation coverage.
Enforcement of HIPAA is carried out by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This department is responsible for issuing regulations, conducting investigations, and imposing civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance with the law. HIPAA violations can result in fines and penalties ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation. The maximum annual penalty is $1.5 million. In cases of willful violations, criminal penalties may also be imposed, including fines and imprisonment.
Estate Planning and Elder Law Considerations
Some aspects of the HIPAA law are not directly related to elder law matters. However, at least one of them is quite relevant.
A significant percentage of elders become unable to communicate sound decisions at some point. Physical ailments make communication impossible, and a lot of elders experience cognitive impairment. In fact, over 30 percent of people there 85 years of age and older have contracted Alzheimer’s disease.
For this reason, your estate plan should include an incapacity planning component. You can name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if it ever becomes necessary. You can do this in a durable power of attorney for health care.
However, because of HIPAA regulations, your agent would not be able to access your medical records unless you include a HIPAA release to give them the clearance they need.
On another level, this law applies to all adults, even those that are 18 years of age. If you have a child of this age, their doctors would not be able to share their medical information with you. For this reason, you should encourage young adult children to sign HIPAA releases.
Take Action in 2023!
When you have been putting estate planning on the back burner, a new year is always a good time to take care of outstanding responsibilities. If you are ready to put the procrastination behind you, you can schedule a consultation or Oklahoma City estate planning office to be call us at 405-843-6100.
The number for our Tulsa location is 918-615-2700, and you can use our contact form if you would like to send us a message.
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