Friday, December 23, 2011

Advantages and Disadvantages of HIPAA

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted for the regulation of health insurance in a way that such cover is not affected or lost if a person changes or loses the job. The Act has certain distinct advantages and has also thrown up certain disadvantages, 3 of each are highlighted below.

• Advantages

1. Privacy: Privacy is important to everyone and HIPAA has made extensive provisions to allow you to control your personal medical history and any such related and sensitive data. The provisions give you the right to access and correct such information and even clearly state how or to whom such data should be disclosed. Such measures have dramatically improved the protection and curtailed unnecessary sharing of personal information.

2. Pre-existing Norms: The Act prevents any discrimination based on genetic conditions or certain stated health factors. Also while taking into consideration the pre-existing conditions the company is allowed to include health issues and treatments only in the previous six months and no further. Also if such conditions do exist coverage can be delayed by 12-18 months only.

3. Portability and Simplification: HIPAA provides you with better support to change healthcare coverage. It even limits or removes the exclusion period based on a prior policy that you may have had. The aim is to simplify the entire process by giving you greater flexibility and stating definite rules while expanding the coverage base in your favor.

• Disadvantages

1. Increased Costs and Labor: In keeping up with the stringent provisions of HIPAA the businesses that manage your healthcare have to bear increased expenditure on computers and software for adhering with all the privacy requirements. The paperwork also increases significantly to comply with the Act due to provisions of portability etc. Furthermore the businesses have to keep readjusting their policies according to amendments in the Act and may also have to hire people and provide adequate training to work within the purview of HIPAA.

2. Misinterpretations and Restrictions: The elaborate privacy rules of HIPAA can often come in the way during emergency situations as such private information can be dispensed only to certain entities and that too for a short period. Furthermore any misinterpretation of the provisions may impede or slow down the passing of information. For example, healthcare companies might find it difficult to get information about a person from hospitals. Fear of the law can also affect research work carried out by doctors.

3. Electronic Format: HIPAA urges widespread use of electronic formats to store, process and share information. Such systems must huge spending and considerable maintenance costs then. Also since such medium is susceptible to attacks, the security measures have to be constantly updated to keep the data safe against unauthorized access, corruption and stealing.

HIPAA was brought into existence for the benefit of consumers and as you can see for yourself its provisions and safeguards have been extremely helpful. Various changes to the Act have brought in certain negativity too, but the pros still outweigh the cons and constant efforts are being made to bring in changes to make the Act more and more useful and stable.

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