Posted by Tamara
The federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) prohibits providers within the healthcare field from sharing medical information on that person with written consent. HIPAA covers “third party administrators” as well. Workers who collect group health insurance payments or counsel about benefits are prohibited from sharing that information with anyone.
Whether a person’s medical status is on paper, communicated verbally or is on a computer, it must be kept private.
To illustrate, consider Melissa, who has been just diagnosed with a serious illness. She discusses her situation with her HR benefits coordinator to better understand her options regarding group health insurance. That benefits coordinator cannot share the information about Melissa’s health with anyone. He or she is prohibited by law to even say that Melissa is ill.
That means that employers, HR professionals, insurance companies, physicians, nurses, pharmacies, employers and other who deal with medical information cannot share that information with anyone. This information includes anything regarding an employee’s physical health, mental health, healthcare and payments for healthcare.
In addition, HIPAA prevents sharing medical information for other reasons than treating the patient. An employer cannot utilize an employee’s medical status as a determining factor when making employment decisions, such as training and promotions.
HIPAA is only one of the federal laws that protect an employee’s privacy. ADA and some state law have added additional guidelines and mandates.
Of the states with additional privacy laws, California, tops the list with at least five different laws protecting employee medical information. In Colorado, the state enacted the Colorado Open Records Act, which protects specific types of records such as HIV tests and mental health records. The Hawaii Information Privacy Act prohibits private entities from collecting any medical information without prior written consent.
Note that a state law can require more stringent guidelines, but cannot provide less protection than the federal laws.
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