HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. President Bill Clinton signed it in 1996, and it is comprised of five sections. Health providers and health plans are legally required to follow this act, which includes protecting the privacy of health records and information contained in a patient's file.
Title I of HIPAA protects health insurance for employees and their dependents in the event of a job transition or unemployment. It also sets exclusions of coverage for pre-existing conditions to no more than 12 months after normal enrollment. This exclusion period can be shortened as long as continuous previous health coverage was in place prior to enrollment. Continuous coverage is defined as coverage without a break of 63 days or greater.
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Title II includes the privacy rule enacted in 2003 to protect private health information held by "covered entities" such as health plans and most health providers. Rules govern which information can disclosed and address cases where child abuse is suspected.
Title III gives employees the ability to set up health savings and flexible spending accounts. Health savings accounts allow employees to take out a set amount from their paycheck, pre-tax, to be used for co-pays, deductibles and other approved out-of-pocket expenses.
Titles IV and V
The main purpose of Title IV is to ensure that patient health information is being properly protected and that all health plan requirements are followed. Title V is directed at company life insurance plans.
Your Rights under HIPAA
Under HIPAA, you are entitled to request your health records at any time. You are also required to grant authorization for the review of your records by health providers, which is the HIPAA waiver you sign at most providers' offices. You are also able to file a complaint to your provider or with the U.S. government if you believe your HIPAA rights have been violated.