HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This Act establishes guidelines on the dissemination of sensitive medical information. It is a federal statute applicable nationwide. There are three main provisions of the Act. First, it seeks to make it easier to maintain health care in terms of transfers between jobs or carriers. Second, it sets a standard for providers of health care and the plans they offer. Third, it addresses each individual’s right to privacy as it relates to their medical information.
The third factor is most often seen in the context of family law matters. Often, parties will want to obtain medical information of the other party to present as evidence to the court. This may be in the context of a custody matter if a party is alleging the other party does not have the physical fitness or mental well-being to parent. It may also arise in a support matter where there is an assertion regarding an ability or inability to work because of a health issue. Essentially, a party must give written consent to their provider prior to the release of any of their medical information. Entities that must follow HIPAA include insurance companies and health care providers. In some circumstances it is possible to obtain records without the patient’s written consent by subpoena or court order.