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Margaret Riley is a law professor at the University of Virginia who specializes in health law. She spends a lot of time teaching future lawyers and medical professionals how medical privacy laws work. Here are the basics.
1. What is HIPAA and why did Congress pass it?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s Privacy Rule is a federal law that went into force in 2003. The need for such a law had been underscored when tennis star Arthur Ashe’s HIV status was revealed publicly and country music star Tammy Wynette’s health records were sold to tabloids for a few thousand dollars. People were also starting to worry about genetic privacy. And Congress recognized that the internet would make it easier for health care privacy breaches to occur.
The law prohibits health care providers and businesses and people working with them – including administrative staff, laboratories, pharmacies, health insurers and so on – from disclosing your health information without your permission. That includes information about your COVID-19 symptoms and test results – though there are some exceptions.
2. Is all my medical info protected by HIPAA?
No, HIPAA protects only health care information that is held by specific kinds of health care providers. …
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