There is often a lot of confusion around HIPAA and the protections that it offers. This often starts with the spelling, so it’s wise to note that HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
But the confusion goes far beyond that. Many people believe that this act, which was created to protect patient information in regards to their healthcare, means that no one can ask you any questions about your medical history or your healthcare strategies. If someone does ask you, you may feel that they have violated this act because you don’t have to provide that information.
This is not, as you may have guessed by now, what HIPAA actually does. You certainly don’t have to offer that information to anyone, but it is definitely not illegal for them to ask. So what does it do?
Healthcare providers can’t give out information without permission
When people are talking about the part of HIPAA that revolves around privacy, they need to realize that it actually means healthcare providers are the ones who are barred from giving out information about their patients.
This doesn’t mean no one can ask you. It means your doctor can’t tell someone without your permission. The protection you get is simply that you get to determine who gets access to your medical records and who does not. The choice is up to you, and your medical provider can’t make that decision for you, but it certainly doesn’t mean that no one can ask you about your history.
It’s important for patients, doctors, employers and medical centers to follow these guidelines and for all involved to fully understand what they mean. Those involved in any sort of dispute also need to know what their legal options are.