Posted by Tamara
Louisiana employers and employers across the country are required to protect a worker’s privacy. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires that healthcare providers, insurance companies, pharmacies and others keep a patient’s medical information private. Employers who are self-insured are covered under HIPAA, too.
What does “private” really mean? It means that information about a person’s medical status cannot be shared with anyone. Healthcare providers must obtain written consent before sharing a patient’s medical information with other health providers, including other physicians and medical insurance companies.
In fact, anyone who handles or deals with a worker’s medical information is required to maintain confidentiality of that information. That means that employers and HR professionals must safeguard this information. Even the person who collects the payments for group health insurance must keep that information private.
Medical information or status encompasses anything about an employee’s physical or mental health, healthcare, healthcare payments, etc. None of this information can be shared, whether on paper, on the computer or communicated verbally.
For example, Suzy consults her Human Resources professional about group health insurance benefits. During this discussion, Suzy reveals she has a lump in her breast, which could be breast cancer. That HR pro cannot tell anyone about Suzy’s condition, or even say that Suzy may be very ill.
Sharing medical information except to treat a patient is also prohibited by HIPAA. That means that managers, supervisors and employers cannot consider an employee’s medical status when making employment decisions such as hiring, advancement or training.
Several states have enacted laws that add additional privacy. In Alaska, an employer must obtain written permission to perform DNA testing. Arizona employers may, in some cases, disclose medical records or information, such as to an ambulance attendant transferring the patient.
California’s law books contain at least five different laws protecting an employee’s privacy.
Note that state laws are allowed to enforce more stringent confidentiality guidelines, but they cannot provide less protection than the federal laws.
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