Frequently Asked
Questions About HIPAA

Patients and physicians often seek clarification on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to address common inquiries. If you have any questions not covered here, you can visit the United States Department of Health & Human Services website (www.hhs.gov) for additional FAQs or reach out to Mammoth Dx for further assistance.

Q1: What is HIPAA?

A1: HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is a U.S. federal law enacted in 1996 to protect the privacy and security of individuals' health information.

Q1: Who does HIPAA apply to?

A1: HIPAA applies to covered entities, including healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, that transmit health information electronically. It also applies to business associates, which are organizations that handle health information on behalf of covered entities.

Q1: What rights do individuals have under HIPAA?

A1: Individuals have several rights under HIPAA, including the right to access their own health information, request corrections to their records, and receive an accounting of disclosures. They also have the right to request restrictions on the use and disclosure of their information.

Q1: How does HIPAA protect the privacy of health information?

A1: HIPAA establishes standards for the use and disclosure of protected health information (PHI). Covered entities must obtain individuals' consent or authorization before using or disclosing their PHI, except for certain permitted purposes such as treatment, payment, and healthcare operations.

Q1: What are the penalties for HIPAA violations?

A1: The penalties for HIPAA violations vary depending on the severity and intent of the violation. They can range from civil monetary penalties, which can reach up to $1.5 million per violation category, to criminal penalties, which can result in fines and imprisonment.

Q1: Can healthcare providers share patient information for treatment purposes without consent?

A1: Yes, healthcare providers can share patient information for treatment purposes without obtaining consent. HIPAA allows the sharing of PHI between healthcare providers involved in a patient's care to ensure coordinated and effective treatment.

Q1: How long must covered entities retain patient records under HIPAA?

A1: HIPAA does not specify a specific retention period for patient records. However, covered entities are generally required to retain records for a minimum of six years from the date of creation or the date when they were last in effect, whichever is later.

Q1: Are employers covered by HIPAA?

A1: Employers are generally not covered by HIPAA in relation to employee health information. However, if an employer also acts as a healthcare provider or health plan, they may have HIPAA obligations regarding the health information they handle in those roles.

Q1: Can family members access a patient's medical records under HIPAA?

A1: In general, HIPAA allows healthcare providers to share relevant medical information with a patient's family members or close relatives involved in the patient's care, unless the patient has specifically requested otherwise or there are legal restrictions.

Q1: Does HIPAA apply to electronic health records (EHR)?

A1: Yes, HIPAA applies to electronic health records. It sets standards for the privacy and security of electronic protected health information (ePHI) and requires covered entities and business associates to implement safeguards to protect EHR from unauthorized access or disclosure.