Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size

    HIPAA Rules Explained

    New Medical Privacy Rules Meant to Protect Your Health Records
    WebMD Health News

    April 22, 2003 -- HIPAA forms. You got them from your doctor. You got them from your pharmacist. You got them from your insurance company and maybe even from your employer. What's up?

    Blame a deadline for the flurry of forms. On April 14, 2003, healthcare providers had to comply with HIPAA rules. On that date, everybody with access to your medical records had to be able to prove they had a plan for keeping those records private.

    You had to sign a form agreeing that they told you they had a plan, and that they'll show it to you if you want to see it. And if you work for a company involved in keeping medical records, you had to show that you understood the new HIPAA rules.

    Other than the forms, what's truly new? Don't look to the name for an explanation. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The original idea was to force the healthcare industry to save money by computerizing paper records. That led to concerns over privacy -- and new privacy regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

    Here's the bottom line: HIPAA rules give you new rights to know about -- and to control -- how your health information gets used.

    • Your healthcare provider and your insurance company have to explain how they'll use and disclose health information.
    • You can ask for copies of all this information, and make appropriate changes to it. You can also ask for a history of any unusual disclosures.
    • If someone wants to share your health information, you have to give your formal consent.
    • You have the right to complain to HHS about violations of HIPAA rules.
    • Health information is to be used only for health purposes. Without your consent, it can't be used to help banks decide whether to give you a loan, or by potential employers to decide whether to give you a job.
    • When your health information gets shared, only the minimum necessary amount of information should be disclosed.
    • Psychotherapy records get an extra level of protection.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    smiling after car mishap
    9 things no one tells you about getting older.
    fast healthy snack ideas
    how healthy is your mouth
    dog on couch
    doctor holding syringe
    champagne toast
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Man feeding woman
    two senior women laughing