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HIPAA: Why is it important to me?

More than 20 years ago the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) became law. Today, as a result of this law, we assume our private health information will always be protected.

Before HIPAA

When you think of HIPAA it may feel like privacy overkill to you. Yet, before HIPAA was law, more than one-third of Fortune 500 companies looked at medical records as part of their hiring decision, according to a study by the University of Illinois. Can you imagine that?

What about losing your job when health care issues come up? Before HIPAA, that was actually possible. It happened to teachers. It happened to maintenance people. It happened to people across all levels of jobs.

Helping Your Parents

Say you notice that your mother or father are having health issues or memory issues. You call the doctor because you want to know if they are ill. You want to know what you should do to take care of them. If you’re not on their authorization form, you’re not going to get any information. This can be a serious problem if you are someone’s only available support. If you are the support person, make sure that these forms are up-to-date for you and your loved ones.

Ask Those Tough Questions

It’s a good idea to ask family members to list you on their standard authorization form.  It’s also a good idea to talk about and write down end-of-life wishes. Does your loved one have a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order on file? Ask for a copy. Do they have preferences about organ donation? It’s best to have that record as well. These are tough conversations to have but they are critical.

Getting access to medical records

What happens if you need access to medical information for a loved one who has had a medical emergency or serious illness? What if a doctor or hospital needs medical history to decide the safest treatment? If you are not on file to access their personal health information then you can’t help. This can be very frustrating, but remember, it’s critically important to protect someone’s privacy.  Why? Just think, what if anyone could get this information.