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What’s Good and Not So Good For Me About HIPAA

HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996.  HIPAA does the following:

  • Provides the ability to transfer and continue health insurance coverage for millions of American workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs;
  • Reduces health care fraud and abuse;
  • Mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electronic billing and other processes; and
  • Requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information

On some days I am okay with HIPAA. I like the fact that people can transfer and continue health insurance coverage when jobs are changed or lost.  I am okay with standards for information and billing and other things.

But on most days I hate HIPPA. Like when I hear about the woman who did not know her son had said to his psychiatrist that he felt like killing people. He went out from that session and killed people. The mother wonders if she had known would she had been able to help?

I hate it when I hear stories that a husband or wife has gone to the psychiatrist or therapist and the story they present is far far different than the one that the household lives with day in and day out, but the family members are restricted from entering into the therapy because of HIPAA..

I get frustrated with the law when I hear of doctors who don’t choose to hear from other family members about the person who is seeking help. They feel that the patient will tell them all they need to know. And even when those who love the depressed individual are allowed to go into the session at the request of the patient, they often find that their contributions are given the polite nod and often dismissed.

HIPAA serves a purpose and back when it originally passed, many people were spared discrimination because the AIDS epidemic was so misunderstood. Perhaps we have to re-think HIPAA and see if there shouldn’t be more of an emphasis on reducing health care fraud and abuse – for example, when health care is denied or shortened at the whim of insurance reviewers and the needs of mentally ill more easily dismissed – and less emphasis on saving our “privacy” and more emphasis on all of us working together to help each other get and stay healthy.

– Bernadette


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