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HIPAA for Non-Lawyers


What is HIPAA for non-lawyers?

HIPAA for Non-Lawyers is a brief outline of what the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act” is all about. This article covers why you should care about HIPAA and what it means for non-lawyers. In a nutshell, it is a federal law (one that covers everyone in the United States) that prohibits “Covered Entities” from sharing “Protected Health Information.” For a little more background about HIPAA, see here.

Stealing HIPAA information
Stealing health information

Why should non-lawyers care what HIPAA is?

You should care about HIPAA for a few reasons: (1) it will impress your friends. Okay, that is not the most important reason, but it is a side benefit. (2) Knowing the basics of HIPAA for non-lawyers could protect you from being taken advantage of. (3) Understanding a little bit about HIPAA can help you feel empowered. A lot of people feel like HIPAA is some confusing law that no one can possibly understand, but really, it is pretty simple.

Doctor with HIPAA protected information
HIPAA explained for the non-lawyer

HIPAA is Not Simple! I Do Not Believe You!

Generally, you only need to remember three rules about HIPAA, and all the details will fall into place: (1) HIPAA protects the patient. (2) It helps to keep health information secret, unless the patient agrees otherwise. (3) HIPAA only applies to “Protected Entities.”

HIPAA Protects the Patient.

Protects HIPAA information for non-lawyers

Your healthcare information belongs to you. You own it. No one can keep it from you. Doctors or health insurance companies can require you to pay them to make copies or search for your records, but they can never flat out refuse to give you your information.

Before I went to law school, I sold glasses at Lenscraters. Sometimes doctors hated to give Lenscrafters their patients’ glasses prescriptions. Sometimes, even a few of them would say “Well, I can’t give you that. Ya know, HIPAA.” Okay, HIPAA does not require the doctors to give prescriptions to Lenscrafters. However, if the patient asked for a copy of the prescription, the doctor’s office would have to give the patient a copy. And, doctors cannot hide behind HIPAA when they do not want to give it out.

The Law Helps to Keep Health Information Secret.

HIPAA does not apply to everything. The law only applies to “Protected Health Information,” which is generally medical records, test results, diagnoses and prescriptions.

You may be able to use other laws, but HIPAA doesn’t provide much protection for employment records, bank records, or family history. The law is very helpful, but do not try (or let anyone else try) to make it more than it is.

HIPAA Applies Only to “Protected Entities.”

HIPAA applies only to Protected Entities. That usually means doctors, hospitals, therapists, nurses, and insurance companies.

Almost anyone else can disclose your health-related information far and wide, without running afoul of HIPAA. Again, other law may prohibit these disclosures. But, under HIPAA, if you told your ex-boyfriend you were pregnant, he can tell whomever he wants. If you told your work friend that your job gives you anxiety attacks, he can tell your boss. Remember, HIPAA only prevents doctors, hospitals and the like from disclosing your health information.

Why do clients in a lawsuit have to sign tons of documents?

If your lawsuit has anything to do with your health (like if you were hurt in a car accident or if you are suing a pharmaceutical company) your lawyer will need to get your medical records and maybe your doctors’ opinions. Covered Entities cannot provide your health information to anyone without your permission, not even your lawyers.

Signing Documents
Signing documents for HIPAA for non-lawyers
Kim Beck

Attorney Kimberly Beck

Cincinnati, Ohio

Attorney Kim Beck is the managing member of Beck Law Center, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She has 15 years of experience as an attorney, mostly on the defense.  She now represents plaintiffs in personal injury cases involving a variety of injuries caused by defecting drugs/ pharmaceuticals, medical malpractice, and other series accidents.  If you would like more information about her background and experience, please review her profile page.

Attorney Advertisement.  Beck Law Center provided this post as general information and should not be construed as creating an attorney/client relationship.  It may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction.  It is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.  Further, this correspondence is not protected by privilege.  No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.

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