The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted to reform healthcare in America. HIPAA has several objectives:

  • Protect health insurance coverage for working Americans who have pre-existing medical conditions when they change or lose their jobs
  • Reduce healthcare fraud and abuse
  • Enforce standards for health information
  • Guarantee security and privacy of health information

How Does HIPAA Protect My Privacy?

HIPAA established federal standards to protect the security and confidentiality of a patient’s health information. It limits when and how health plans, pharmacies, hospitals and other entities can use a patient’s private medical information.

Can a Person with Power of Attorney Access Medical Information?

Nothing in HIPAA changes the way that a patient can grant another person power of attorney for health care decisions. The usual state or local law governing power of attorney still applies, and nothing needs to be added to or changed in power of attorney documents to accommodate HIPAA regulations. Privacy rights granted to a patient under HIPAA are transferred to the person with power of attorney for health care decisions.

However, if a physician or other covered entity believes that the person with power of attorney has been abusing the patient or is otherwise endangering the patient, the physician or covered entity is permitted to refuse to disclose the medical information if it would be in the best interest of the patient.

Do I Need a Lawyer Experienced with HIPAA Laws?

The HIPAA laws can be quite complicated, and penalties for violating a patient’s privacy rights under HIPAA carry serious criminal charges and civil damages. An attorney can explain the law to you and ensure that you are in compliance with HIPAA’s privacy requirements.

If you feel your rights have been violated under HIPAA, you may want to contact a lawyer. Your lawyer can advise you of your rights, help you file complaint against the specific agency that violated your privacy through illegal use of your records, and let you know if you may be entitled to any remedies.