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Healthcare Providers Face HIPAA Compliance Challenges
Many doctors, if they’re pressed, may admit they’ve found compliance with the new HIPAA rules onerous.
As you may recall, HIPAA is a set of national standards established to protect certain health information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the Privacy Rule to implement the requirement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or, as we’ve come to know it, HIPAA, according to HHS.
Simply put, the standards cover the use and disclosure of our health information as well as the ways we can control it.
HIPAA incorporates the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act that’s planning a nationwide grid of networked electronic health records (EHRs) as a way to save costs and provide better treatment of individuals, whose health care records would then be available electronically at any location in the United States. With the stimulus package, HITECH is being folded into HIPAA, beefing up its privacy and security of patient information requirements for compliance.
HITECH hopes for full implementation of EHRs by 2014 but many say that is not likely.
Who does HIPAA currently affect? Employers with two or more employees who offer group health plans, but some states lower that to employers with one employee. Specific provisions of HIPAA regarding group plans cover pre-existing conditions, nondiscrimination in coverage, the right of employers to purchase group plans, and the right of employers and employees to renew the plans regardless of health conditions, according to personnelconcepts.com, which bills itself as “your compliance partner.”
However, the website notes, HIPAA also defers to the states in the matter of overall health insurance regulation, so nationwide there is a crazy quilt of what each state requires and permits, forcing insurers to assemble different plans for different states or limiting themselves to certain states or areas of the country, all of which makes it very hard for companies and healthcare providers trying to comply with HIPAA.
Managing compliance can be a challenge for physician practices short on staff but physicians can no longer afford to be relaxed about HIPAA compliance. Healthcare providers who meet “meaningful use” standards, which include HIPAA compliance, qualify for financial incentives.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey