U.S. House: Does HIPAA hinder patient care?

May 25, 2013

Mental health problems and suicide risks have lawmakers questioning whether new rules surrounding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ultimately “interfere with patient care and public safety.”

 

Mental health problems and suicide risks have lawmakers questioning whether new rules surrounding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ultimately “interfere with patient care and public safety.”

In fact, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee recently put the topic on the docket in an attempt to better understand the scope of HIPAA’s privacy laws and the way they could potentially interfere with a physician’s ability to report information among other healthcare providers, patients, and families.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), a clinical psychologist, adds, “To be sure, HIPAA’s obstruction of health information-sharing between provider and family in no way is limited to mental health. Some of our witnesses will testify that a widespread misunderstanding of what HIPAA says can prevent individuals with serious long-term medical conditions from obtaining appropriate care.”

Of utmost importance, according to Murphy, is the law’s impact as it relates to the care of mentally ill or severely depressed adolescents and HIPAA’s effect on parental involvement as these individuals become young adults.

In testimony from Mark A. Rothstein, holder of the Herbert F. Boehl Chair of Law and Medicine and director of the Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy, and Law at the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, each year more than 38,000 suicides and more than 700,000 emergency department visits are caused by self-inflicted harms. HIPPA’s law considers the public health threat.

In fact, Rothstein outlines 12 types of health information covered entities are permitted to disclose without the need for patient consent or authorization: