If you’ve visited a new doctor recently, you probably had to fill out forms that ask for your consent to disclose information about your health. The questions include whether or not your provider can share your information with third parties, leave messages on your phone, speak with your family members about your medical conditions, and more. These forms were created in response to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA (P.L. 104-191, 110 Stat. 1936).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, HIPAA "required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s knowledge." These standards were issued by the Department of Health and Human Services as the Privacy Rule on December 28, 2000. The Privacy Rule aims to ensure that individuals’ health information is properly protected and allows for important uses of information that can protect the public’s health but also protects patients. Find the Privacy Rule at 45 CFR Part 160 and Part 164, Subparts A and E.
HIPAA also ensured the portability of health benefits when workers change or lose their jobs and protected workers against discrimination by health plan based on their health status. It eliminated the possibility that individuals can be denied coverage because they have a preexisting medical condition. (Source: HHS )
As recorded in Book 2 of his 1996 Public Papers, upon signing HIPAA into law on August 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton remarked, "The health insurance reform bill I sign today will protect the health care of millions of working Americans and give them and their families something that cannot be measured, peace of mind." The President further commented his disappointment that the bill did not include a provision intended to protect individuals with mental illnesses from discrimination in health plans.
- Read more about the HIPAA Privacy Rule and its History - on the HHS website.
- HIPAA and COVID-19 - HHS provides guidance on the application of HIPAA during the nationwide public health emergency.