HIPAA is an acronym, representative of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which was initially implemented in 1996 in order to protect patient rights and confidentiality. There are actually two sections of the act. The first section of the act protects the health insurance coverage of individuals who may lose or are in the midst of changing jobs. The second section applies more to those in treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, and requires a standardization of healthcare-related informational systems. The second section implements mandatory regulations that often require changes to the way that many healthcare providers previously conducted business. Okay, so wait – what?
What is HIPAA?
In layman’s terms, HIPAA laws provide protection for drug and alcohol treatment information. The program that a patient is enrolled in cannot confirm or deny that he or she is there. If an outside person asks (regardless of their relationship to the patient), the treatment program cannot disclose any information or identify a patient as an alcohol or drug abuser. Essentially, no treatment can be verified, no records can be disclosed, and no patient can be positively identified as a patient. There are, however, several exceptions to this rule. A patient’s information may be disclosed to an outside party if:
- The patient consents in writing
- A disclosure is permitted based on a court order
- A disclosure is made to medically licensed personnel during a medical emergency
- A disclosure is made to qualified personnel for audit, research, or overall program evaluation
It is not uncommon for high-profile individuals to avoid seeking treatment they need because they are afraid that their confidentiality will not be properly protected. This fear may prevent those who are in desperate need of treatment from admitting themselves into a drug rehab, which can more often than not prove a deadly dread. Because of this reason amongst many others, the HIPAA laws are taken extremely seriously. But what information exactly, aside from general confidentiality, does this law protect? HIPAA prevents all treatment programs from disclosing:
- Any mental health or general health disorders
- What level of care the patient is receiving
- Payment information – how the patient is paying for treatment
- Medical records
- Any personal patient information
While law protects all patient information, entering one of the many treatment centers located in South Florida may still be somewhat daunting. Surely some rehabs that claim to be licensed and professionally staffed are far from, and while HIPAA applies it may not be adhered to. What happens, thus, if the law is violated?
Serious Consequences for HIPAA Violation
If this law is broken, a crime has clearly been committed. Crime penalties for wrongful disclosure may cost the staff member in question as much as $250,000 and 10 years in prison. HIPAA is serious, and we at the Hope Center for Rehabilitation take it seriously. Your rights will never be compromised, and your confidentiality will never be negotiated.