How Does the HIPAA Act Work?

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While Eylül is calling people back to the office and The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the country, workplaces face a number of challenges, including mandating employee vaccinations or re-implementing mask instructions.

Some, including Georgia Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, are resisting these calls, claiming this week that falsely disclosing her vaccine status “violates my HIPAA rights,” the federal regulation protecting confidential health information.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, regulates the confidentiality of a patient’s health records, but it is legal to ask Ms. Greene about her medical history. Still, his claim reflects a misconception that has spread to social media and edge sites as online misinformation and vaccine misrepresentations help fuel a resistance to vaccination.

Take a look at what privacy protections HIPAA offers and why it’s so often misinterpreted.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the broad law, HIPAA. health and privacy legislation This helped to update and regulate how health insurance is sold and personal medical information is stored during electronic processing.

One aspect of the law privacy rulemakes it illegal for certain individuals and entities, including healthcare providers, insurers, clearinghouses that store and manage health data, and business partners, to share a patient’s medical records without the patient’s explicit consent. These parties handle patient health records on a daily basis.

No. The law only applies to companies and professionals in the healthcare field, but some may falsely imply otherwise, as Ms Greene argued that the measure protects against disclosure of personal health information similar to the Fifth Amendment.

Glenn Cohen, a bioethics and health law expert at Harvard Law School, says HIPAA is extremely “narrow.” “If someone tells you ‘HIPAA forbids it’, ask them to point to the part of the law or regulation that prohibits it. Most of the time they won’t be able to do that.”

Also, nothing in the law prohibits asking questions about someone’s health, whether it’s vaccination status or proof of the accuracy of that information.

Regardless, some have invoked the law as an excuse to deflect such questions.

In July, North Carolina deputy governor Mark Robinson falsely claimed on Facebook: President Biden’s door-to-door campaign promoting vaccination and asking residents if they were vaccinated was “illegal” under HIPAA.

But the law does not apply to employers, retail stores or journalists, among other parties. No federal law requires companies to vaccinate their employees. although there are some exceptions if you have a disability or a religious belief that you sincerely believe in.

It also doesn’t mean you have to disclose whether you have been vaccinated. This disclosure is at your discretion.

Long before social media and side news sites spreading harmful health misinformation, like whether or not masks work (they do) or whether the coronavirus vaccine will change your DNA (won’t happen), as a comprehensive pretext for HIPAA and privacy often misinterpret themselves.

“I often joke that HIPAA is treated as a four-letter word even though it has five letters,” Mr. Cohen said. He said doctors often use this to “not do something they don’t want to do, such as giving certain information to a patient—perhaps by believing it and being wrong—”well, that would be a HIPAA violation.”

But experts say politicians and public figures do more harm than good in perpetuating false claims, allowing for misunderstandings about HIPAA and vaccine skepticism. to develop.

“This rumor in itself may not be particularly harmful, but it is part of a narrative that is harmful,” he said. Tara Kirk SellD., assistant professor of health safety at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s especially problematic when there’s a knowledge gap, and in that case people don’t know what HIPAA is.”

Ms. Greene had previously spread misinformation about HIPAA and vaccines. excitement suspended his account This week, after claiming that Covid-19 is not dangerous to young, healthy people – a claim the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refuted.

“HIPAA laws are real and they do something important,” said Ms. Sell. “The misinterpretation of everything is adding to this firestorm of anti-vaccine sentiment.”

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