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Privacy information you need to know

Created almost 20  years ago by the U.S. Congress, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, created protections for patients’ private health information.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides highlights of the privacy rights you should know as you use your new health coverage:

  • You can ask to change any wrong information in your file or add information to your file if you think something is missing or incomplete. For example, if you and your hospital agree that your file has the wrong result for a test, the hospital must change it. Even if the hospital believes the test result is correct, you still have the right to have your disagreement noted in your file. In most cases, the file should be updated within 60 days.
  • Generally, your health information cannot be used for purposes not directly related to your care without your permission. For example, your doctor cannot give it to your employer, or share it for things like marketing and advertising, without your written authorization. Ask for a notice telling you how your health information may be used on your first visit to a new health care provider or when you got new health insurance. You can ask for another copy anytime.
  • You can ask that your health information not be shared with certain people, groups, or companies. If you go to a clinic, for example, you can ask the doctor not to share your medical records with other doctors or nurses at the clinic. You can ask for other kinds of restrictions, but they do not always have to agree to do what you ask, particularly if it could affect your care.
  • You can also ask your health care provider or pharmacy not to tell your health insurance company about care you receive or drugs you take, if you pay for the care or drugs in full and the provider or pharmacy does not need to receive payment from your insurance company.
  • You can make reasonable requests to be contacted at different places or in a different way. For example, you can ask to have a nurse call you at your office instead of your home or to send mail to you in an envelope instead of on a postcard.