The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is widely thought of as one of the most important pieces of healthcare legislation ever to be passed in the United States. Next year will be the 20th Anniversary of the passing of the act, and during that time there have been some major amendments to that legislation.
The legislation was first introduced during Bill Clinton’s tenure as president, and was originally aimed at enhancing the portability and accountability of health insurance coverage. The act promoted the use of medical savings accounts by bringing in tax breaks and ensured coverage for staff members with pre-existing medical conditions. It also ensured that coverage went on when individuals changed employer.
Since the act was passed, its scope has grown significantly and it has become a means to encourage healthcare providers and other covered entities to make the switch from paper files to electronic healthcare records, and along with that switch, introduce a number of measures to ensure patient healthcare data is kept safe. When accidental or deliberate disclosure of data happens, the Act spells out the actions that covered groups must take to alert the victims and to mitigate the damage caused.
Business Associates of healthcare groups and insurers now have to abide by the Act’s Privacy and Security Rules, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights – along with state Attorney Generals’ Offices and other government groups – can fine organizations that fail to implement the administrative, physical and technical measures to safeguard healthcare information.
There have been many milestones in the history of HIPAA, in terms of legislative updates and enforcement actions, which are listed in the HIPAA infographic below: