How Private is Private?

True or false: The privacy rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) absolutely forbids a health care provider or plan from releasing your protected health information without your consent.

FALSE. The privacy rule is NOT a blanket prohibition like many patients believe to be true. A health care provider or plan may release your protected health information to friends and family if:

The person is involved in your health care or payment for your health care;

You do not object to the sharing of your information; or

A health care provider or plan, using its professional judgment, believes that you would not object to its releasing the information.

Of course, you can always let the health care provider or plan know that you agree to the release of your information by signing a HIPAA release, also called a medical authorization. When we prepare an estate plan, we include a HIPAA release that provides the names of those people to whom you want your health information released. If, however, you do not want certain individuals to receive your health information (particularly those who may have received it in the past, may be at your medical appointments with you, or may be responsible for your medical bills), you should provide a written objection to your health care providers or plan that you do not want the listed person(s) to have access to your health information.

If you have any questions about how the HIPAA privacy rules affect you or your estate plan, feel free to contact our office at (248) 477-6300.

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