Group Insurance Health Care and the HIPAA Privacy Rule

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. When I hear people talking about HIPAA, they are usually not talking about the original Act. They are talking about the Privacy Rule that was issued as a result of the HIPAA in the form of a Notice of Health Information Practices.

The United States Department of Health & Human Services official Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule is 25 pages long, and that is just a summary of the key elements. So as you can imagine, it covers a lot of ground. What I would like to offer you here is a summary of the basics of the Privacy Rule.

When it was enacted in 1996, the Privacy Rule established guidelines for the protection of individuals’s health information. The guidelines are written such that they make sure that an individual’s health records are protected while at the same time allowing needed information to be released in the course of providing health care and protecting the public’s health and well being. In other words, not just anyone can see a person’s health records. But, if you want someone such as a health provider to see your records, you can sign a release giving them access to your records.

So just what is your health information and where does it come from? Your health information is held or transmitted by health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers. These are called covered entities in the wording of the rule.

These guidelines also apply to what are called business associates of any health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers. Business associates are those entities that offer legal, actuarial, accounting, consulting, data aggregation, management, administrative, accreditation, or financial services.

So, what does a typical Privacy Notice include?

The type of information collected by your health plan.
A description of what your health record/information includes.
A summary of your health information rights.
The responsibilities of the group health plan.

Let’s look at these one at a time:

Information Collected by Your Health Plan:

The group healthcare plan collects the following types of information in order to provide benefits:

Information that you provide to the plan to enroll in the plan, including personal information such as your address, telephone number, date of birth, and Social Security number.

Plan contributions and account balance information.

The fact that you are or have been enrolled in the plans.

Health-related information received from any of your physicians or other healthcare providers.

Information regarding your health status, including diagnosis and claims payment information.

Changes in plan enrollment (e.g., adding a participant or dropping a participant, adding or dropping a benefit.)

Payment of plan benefits.

Claims adjudication.

Case or medical management.

Other information about you that is necessary for us to provide you with health benefits.

Understanding Your Health Record/Information:

Each time you visit a hospital, physician, or other healthcare provider, a record of your visit is made. Typically, this record contains your symptoms, examination and test results, diagnoses, treatment, and a plan for future care or treatment.

This information, often referred to as your health or medical record, serves as a:

Basis for planning your care and treatment.

Means of communication among the many health professionals who contribute to your care.

Legal document describing the care you received.

Means by which you or a third-party payer can verify that services billed were actually provided.

Tool in educating health professionals.

Source of data for medical research.

Source of information for public health officials charged with improving the health of the nation.

Source of data for facility planning and marketing.

Which Health Insurance Plan Is Best for Me?

Health insurance has proven itself of great help and financial aid in certain cases when events turn out unexpectedly. In times when you are ill and when your health is in grave jeopardy and when finances seem to be incapable to sustain for your care, health insurance is here to the rescue. A good health insurance plan will definitely make things better for you.

Basically, there are two types of health insurance plans. Your first option is the indemnity plans, which includes the fee-for-services and the second is the managed care plans. The differences between these two include the choice offered by the providers, the amount of bills the policy holder has to pay and the services covered by the policy. As you can always hear there is no ultimate or best plan for anyone.

As you can see, there are some plans which may be way better than the others. Some may be good for you and your family’s health and medical care needs. However, amidst the sweet health insurance plan terms presented, there are always certain drawbacks that you may come to consider. The key is, you will have to wisely weigh the benefits. Especially that not among these plans will pay for all the financial damages associated with your care.

The following are a brief description about the health insurance plans that might be fitting for you and your family’s case.

Indemnity Plans

Flexible Spending Plans – These are the types of health insurance plans that are sponsored when you are working for a company, or any employer. These are the care plans inclusive in your employee benefit package. Some of the specific types of benefits included in this plan are the multiple options pre-tax conversion plan, medical plans plus flexible spending accounts, tax conversion plan, and employer credit cafeteria plans. You can always ask your employer of the benefits included in your health care/insurance plans.

Indemnity Health Plans – This type of health insurance plan allows you to choose your own health care providers. You are given the freedom to go to any doctor, medical institution, or other health care providers for a set monthly premium. The insurance plan will reimburse you and your health care provider according to the services rendered. Depending on the health insurance plan policy, there are those that offers limit on individual expenses, and when that expense is reached, the health insurance will cover for the remaining expenses in full. Sometimes, indemnity health insurance plans impose restrictions on services covered and may require prior authorization for hospital care and other expensive services.

Basic and Essential Health Plans – It provides a limited health insurance benefit at a considerably low insurance cost. In opting for this kind of health insurance plan, it is necessary that one should read the policy description giving special focus on covered services. There are plans which may not cover on some basic treatments, certain medical services such as chemotherapy, maternity care or certain prescriptions. Also, rates vary considerably since unlike other plans, premiums consider age, gender, health status, occupation, geographic location, and community rated.

Health Savings Accounts – You own and control the money in your HSA. This is the recent alternative to the old fashioned health insurance plans. These are savings product designed to offer policy holders different way to pay for their health care. This type of insurance plan allows the individual to pay for the current health expenses and also save for untoward future qualified medical and retiree health costs on a tax-free basis. With this health care plan, you decide on how your money is spent. You make all the decisions without relying on any third party or a health insurer. You decide on which investment will help your money grow. However, if you sign up for an HSA, High Deductible Health Plans are required in adjunct to this type of insurance plan.

High Deductible Health Plans – Also called Catastrophic Health Insurance Coverage. It is an inexpensive health insurance plan which is enabled only after a high deductible is met of at least $1,000 for an individual expense and $2,000 for family-related medical expense.

Managed Care Options