There are many misconceptions surrounding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Some of these are fairly harmless, others can cause big problems. Medical professionals like nurses are wise to understand this law, as a failure to properly follow the rules could result in an investigation by the local nursing board. It helps to understand some of the common misconceptions. Three of the most common include:
- The meaning of the acronym: It is HIPAA, with two of the letter a, not HIPPA, with two of the letter p. Many think there should be two of the letter p and that one should stand for privacy, but this is not true. Instead, the letter refers to portability. This concept is at the root of the law. The law went into effect in 1996 and one of the provisions helped to better ensure that health insurance coverage would stay with employees — even when they change jobs. Hence, portability.
- The extent of coverage: HIPAA applies to certain entities. The government and medical boards expect health care providers like doctors, nurses, and pharmacies to follow HIPAA. But these expectations do not end there. Health insurance providers, health care clearinghouses that process medical data and certain contractors must also follow HIPAA.
- The purpose: Although the p does not stand for privacy it is a goal of the law. However, it is not the only goal. HIPAA also has provisions that address healthcare fraud and pre-tax contributions to medical savings accounts.
As noted above, a failure to follow HIPAA can threaten your nursing or medical license. Make sure you follow HIPAA to reduce the risk of an investigation. If you are under investigation, you can act to protect your interests. If the investigation results in negative action, you can file an appeal.