Your privacy and information rights
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Federal civil rights laws and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, together protect your fundamental rights of nondiscrimination and health information privacy. Civil Rights help to protect you from unfair treatment or discrimination, because of your race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex (gender), or religion. Federal laws also provide conscience protections for health care providers.
The Privacy Rule protects the privacy of your health information; it says who can look at and receive your health information, and also gives you specific rights over that information.
Privacy and Your Health Information:
You have privacy rights under a federal law that protects your health information. These rights are important for patients, their providers and families to know. Federal law sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information.
Who must follow this law?
- Doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and many other health providers.
- Health insurance companies, HMOs and most employer group plans.
- Certain government programs that pay for health care, such as Medicare and Medicaid.
What information is protected?
- Information your doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers put into your medical records.
- Conversations your doctor has with nurses and other care givers regarding your care and treatment.
- Information about you in your health insurer's computer system.
- Billing information about you at your clinic.
- Most other health information about held by those who must follow this law.
You have rights over your health information:
Providers and health insurers who are required to follow this law must comply with your right to:
To make sure that your health information is protected in a way that does not interfere with your healthcare, your information can be used and shared:
- For your treatment and care coordination.
- To pay doctors and hospitals for your healthcare and help run their business.
- With your family, relatives, friends, or other you identify who are involved with your health care or your healthcare bills unless you object.
- To make sure doctors give good care and nursing homes are clean and safe.
- To protect the public's good health, such as reporting when the flu is in your area.
- To make required reports to the police, such as reporting gunshot wounds.
Without your written permission, your provider cannot:
- Give your health information to your employer.
- Use or share your health information for marketing or advertising purposes.
- Share private notes about your mental health counseling sessions.
Summarized and adapted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. Additional information can found on the following websites: