Magazine article Drug Topics

HIPAA in Wonderland

Magazine article Drug Topics

HIPAA in Wonderland

Article excerpt

VIEW FROM THE ZOO

"With the passage of this bill, we will enter a new era. A time when healthcare providers will encounter unnecessary obstacles when they seek information to care for their patients, when law enforcement investigations will be brought to a standstill, and when any healthcare entity can use this new law as an excuse to avoid an unwanted task. I am proud to be a part of this process that will hinder the operations of this country's already overworked and understaffed healthcare workforce."

I am pretty sure that no politician ever said anything like that when the bill we all know as HIPAA was wending its way through Congress, and I'd be willing to bet that President Clinton said no such thing when he signed it into law 18 years ago.

I think we can all agree that no politician in his right mind would be inclined to take a position that favored blocking the delivery of healthcare. And I'm sure that the intention behind HIPAA was not to provoke conversations like the one I was having with the insurance company help desk. Yet there I was.

StonewaU the provider

"I'm sorry, sir. Healthcare privacy laws prevent us from releasing that information."

"You mean HIPAA? Is that the law we're talking about?"

"That is correct."

"That's funny, because I have a copy of the HIPAA law right here in front of me."

This was my second call to try to resolve my patient's issue, and I had done my homework before I dialed that second time. "And it says right here, 'A covered entity may disclose protected health information for the treatment activities of any healthcare provider and the payment activities of another covered entity.' I'm the treater and you're the payer, so if you'll just answer my question now ..."

"Healthcare privacy laws prevent us from releasing that information."

"Did you even hear what I just said?"

It will probably not surprise you to learn that I had to talk to a supervisor's supervisor to get my problem solved, as I'm sure you have had this type of conversation as well.

Defy the police

Nothing seems to frighten the healthcare world more than those five letters. Fear of the "H-word" all too often induces complete paralysis in certain people, as if an instant lifetime trip to a Siberian labor camp would be the fate of anyone who runs afoul of the HIPAA police. …

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