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HIPAA: Privacy Laws and the Family

  • By: Ann M. Rhodes
  • In: Encyclopedia of Family Health
  • Edited by: Martha Craft-Rosenberg & Shelley-Rae Pehler
  • Subject:Family Health, Family Policy, Family Law

HIPAA refers to a federal statute, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, passed by Congress in 1996. Prior to the enactment of HIPAA and its Privacy Rule, confidentiality of health care information was protected by a patchwork of state statutes; the common law right to privacy, enforced by tort actions for invasion of privacy; and the ethical requirements of confidentiality assumed by all health care professionals, violations of which could lead to discipline imposed by state licensing boards. However, there were numerous and recurring reports of confidentiality breaches.

The principal goal of HIPAA was to allow portability of health insurance, that is, to permit employees to take their health coverage with them when they change employers. The law contained several other provisions related to ...

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