How Does HIPAA Protect Your Right to Privacy?
How do HIPAA violation lawsuits come about? Well, when you go to the doctor, you must sign a form saying that you understand your HIPAA rights. You may or may not read this paper, but it provides you with information about your rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA.
While HIPAA covers many things, the main concern you have with it as a patient is that it protects your medical information and keeps it confidential. It also holds your healthcare providers responsible for maintaining that privacy.
If there is a situation where your doctor does not honor your HIPAA rights, you can take action. It helps to have an attorney assist you with this, as it can be confusing to create a HIPAA violation lawsuit.
Beyond protecting the privacy of your medical information, HIPAA also serves other purposes:
- Allows employees to maintain healthcare coverage when switching jobs
- Prevents healthcare fraud
- Reduces waste
- Simplifies administration
While it does all of these things, the major focus is on patient privacy. There are many rules within HIPAA that address this specifically:
- Privacy Rule
- Security Rule
- Omnibus Rule
- Breach Notification Rule
These rules help to keep your medical information confidential by protecting your conversations with medical personnel, the information in your medical record and your healthcare billing information.
HIPAA rules apply to anyone dealing with your medical information:
- Health plans
- Health care providers
- Clearinghouses that process healthcare records
Not only do these entities have to abide by HIPAA laws but they must hold employees accountable. They also must ensure any business associates, such as IT workers, administrators, lawyers and accountants, honor the law. In short, they have to make sure your information stays private and is only accessible by approved individuals.
You should note that HIPAA protections do not apply in all situations. Those with access to your medical information generally cannot share it with others without your permission, except when sharing with:
- Law enforcement
- Workers’ comp
- State agencies
- Municipal offices
- Life insurers
If they receive a request from an entity on this list, then they will need to share the information and can do so without HIPAA concerns.
Types of HIPAA Violations
A HIPAA violation is when a medical entity fails to comply with HIPAA standards. Sometimes, this can lead to a HIPAA violation lawsuit. There are many standards under this law. It is quite complicated and extends far beyond your personal privacy. The law covers many aspects of handling, managing and safeguarding medical records and information.
Common HIPAA violations include:
- Disclosing or accessing health information without permission
- Improper disposal of healthcare information
- Failure to use safeguards to protect confidentiality
- Failure to maintain access logs
- Not giving HIPAA training
- Failure to encrypt health information files
- Not documenting compliance efforts
- Improperly managing risks, such as allowing theft of records
Usually, authorities uncover violations through internal audits or through complaints made by individuals to state agencies.
Specific violations that you may come across that personally violate your rights under the law include your medical provider:
- Giving your healthcare information to your employer
- Sharing your information for marketing purposes
- Selling your information
- Telling your family members about your medical situation without your permission
- Switching your files with someone else’s even if by accident
- Improperly disposing of your medical records
Your healthcare provider and other entities covered by HIPAA are also responsible if there is a security breach and someone else accesses your information.
Penalties for Violating HIPAA
HIPAA violations can be civil or criminal. If there is an accusation of a violation, the proper authority will conduct an investigation. If it finds a violation did occur, then the authority can impose a fine of up to $50,000 per violation in civil actions. There is a maximum limit on the total fine depending on the type of situation.
In criminal situations, the authoritative entity has to determine the level of violation. There are three severity levels.
If the guilty party knowingly obtained or disclosed health information, then he or she faces a fine of up to $50,000 and jail time up to one year. If the issue involves false pretenses, then the penalty is a fine up to $100,000 and up to five years in prison. When there is intent to sell, transfer or use health information for gain or to cause harm, then the penalty is up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
Why You May Need an Attorney
If you want to file a HIPAA violation lawsuit, you should understand that you cannot sue an entity directly. The law does not allow this type of claim. This is why you need an attorney if you find yourself dealing with HIPAA violations.
Your attorney can assist you with the reporting process and ensuring your report the right information to the right authority. You have to file your claim within 180 days of the violation, and you can only file it against a healthcare provider, hospital, doctor or other covered entity.
Your attorney can help you to know if a violation occurred and who to report to. He or she can also assist you with possible other legal actions you can take.
Depending on your state laws, you may be able to sue your doctor directly for violating state privacy laws. The most common option is a breach of patient confidentiality lawsuit, which is a civil claim. To bring such a case, you have to prove you suffered damages due to the breakdown in confidentiality.
If you are a doctor or healthcare provider and face HIPAA violation claims, then you must have an attorney. Your career could take a huge blow if authorities find you liable for the violation, not to mention that you will face stiff fines that could seriously affect your finances.
Furthermore, due to the complex nature of HIPAA, you may not even understand what happened or the violation claim against you. Your attorney can guide you and serve as your advocate to look out for your best interests and assist you through any investigation.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Regardless of the reason you have HIPAA violation lawsuit concerns, it is a good idea to consult with a legal authority who can explain the laws and help you understand your situation.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!