So You Think HIPAA Protects Your Privacy?…WRONG!

About 20 years ago, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) was passed during the Clinton Administration under the guise of improving standards and enforcement of patient privacy.  The government maintained that people’s personal health information might be at risk because of loose lipped or malicious health care professionals.  They invented a health privacy crisis that, at the time, did not exist.  Remember, there were almost no electronic medical records in 1996, so there was very little out there to be hacked back then.  The government maintained that the time honored Hippocratic Oath that physicians have sworn to uphold for many centuries was not as good as hundreds of pages of bureaucratic regulations and threats of fines big enough to bankrupt any practice whose doctor or staff makes an honest mistake in disclosing information, or punching in a wrong fax number.

The results of HIPAA were that doctors and hospitals spent millions of dollars trying to be “HIPAA compliant.”  All this money went to buying new computer systems, and new paper filing systems.   Time and money was spent putting up huge firewalls on computers and higher cubicle walls in offices.  It became harder for doctors and nurses to communicate vital information to each other, to the point that patient lives have been put at enormous risk.

All this expense and inconvenience is worth it though, if it means that no one can have your private medical information without your express permission, right?  Well, guess again.

HIPAA actually does the opposite.  While the Act may prevent your family doctor from communicating with your cardiologist unless each has a release form signed and in your charts at each office, it does not prevent insurance companies, the government, and various vendors that they designate from sharing and selling your personal details without your permission, and there is very little you can do about it.

When you are asked to sign a HIPAA form at the doctor’s office, you are basically signing a form that says in the fine print that you understand that your information is not private, and can be shared with others because of HIPAA.

One example of this violation of your medical privacy is documented by the Citizen’s Council for Health Care Freedom (CCHF).  The following was posted on their website:

‘Anthem insurance company reports: “Under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, data collection for HEDIS is permitted, and the release of this information requires no special patient consent or authorization.”’

It is not as if there are not other examples of how a law touted as doing something good for us had the opposite effect.  In this case, a law they tell us protects our privacy compromises it all the more.  It is not unlike the Patient Protection/Affordable Care Act.  With its passage, we were told that health insurance premiums would be less expensive, and “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”

All this reminds me of a quote from a very wise man, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”- Ronald Reagan

Michael A. Ciampi, M.D.

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