The Standards for Privacy for Individually Identifiable Health Information (“Privacy Rule”) establishes, for the first time, a set of national standards for the protection of certain health information. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued the Privacy Rule to implement the requirement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPPA”). The Privacy Rule standards address the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information – called “protective health information” by organizations subject to the Privacy Rule – called “covered entities,” as well as standards for individuals’ privacy rights to understand and control how their health information is used. Within HHS, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has responsibility for implementing and enforcing the Privacy Rule with respect to voluntary compliance activities and civil money penalties.
A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well being. The Rule strikes a balance that permits important uses of information, while protecting the privacy of people who seek care and healing. Given that the health care market place is diverse, the Rule is designed to be flexible and comprehensive to cover the variety of uses and disclosures that need to be addressed.
This is a summary of key elements of the Privacy Rule and not a complete or comprehensive guide to compliance Entities regulated by the Rule are obligated to comply with all of its applicable requirements and should not rely on this summary as a source of legal information or advice. To make it easier for entities to review the complete requirements of the Rule, provisions of the Rule referenced in this summary are cited in notes at the end of this document. To view the entire Rule, and for other additional helpful information about how it applies, see the OCR website:
http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa. In the event of a conflict between this summary and the Rule, the Rule governs.
Links to the OCR Guidance Document are provided throughout this paper. Provisions of the Rule referenced in this summary are cited in the endnotes at the end of this document. To review the entire Rule itself, and for additional helpful information about how it applies, see the OCR website: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hippa.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA), Public Law 104-191, was enacted on August 21, 1996. Sections 261 through 264 of HIPPA require the Secretary of HHS to publicize standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information. Collectively these are known as the Administrative Simplification provisions.
HIPPA required the Secretary to issue privacy regulations governing individually identifiable health information, if Congress did not enact privacy legislation within.