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What is HIPAA?

The US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, referred to as HIPAA, contains many elements dealing with a broad range of health related issues, including patient privacy and security standards.

The privacy regulations were released to implement requirements of the administrative simplification section of HIPAA, requiring:

  • Standardization of electronic patient health, administrative and financial data
  • Unique health identifiers for individuals, employers, health plans and health care providers
  • Security standards protecting the confidentiality and integrity of "individually identifiable health information", past, present and future

Who's covered by HIPAA?

HIPAA applies to "covered entities", including:

  • Health plans
  • HMO's, health insurers, group health plans including employee welfare benefit plans
  • Health Care Clearinghouses
  • An entity that processes health information going from a health care provider to a payer
  • Certain Health Care Providers
  • Those who use computers to transmit health claims information

When must covered entities be in compliance with HIPAA requirements?

Most covered entities have until April 14, 2022 to comply with the HIPAA privacy standards. Entities with annual receipts of less than five million dollars will have an additional twelve months to comply. The remaining standards, including the draft "Health Information Security Standards", are yet to be published, but are expected to be issued in the near future. Once published, there will be approximately twenty-six months before they become effective.

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