Today, let’s talk about the HIPAA law. The HIPAA law protects employees against discrimination due to medical condition. It also helps ensure continued medical coverage when employees change jobs. Most of all, HIPAA mandates that employees medical information remain confidential.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is usually referred to by the acronym of HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996. It offers protections for millions of American workers that improve portability and continuity of health insurance coverage.

HIPAA specifically prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their medical diagnosis. This means that an employer can’t refuse to hire someone who has been treated for cancer or a heart condition in the past, if they are able to perform the job. HIPAA was enacted because too many employers sought to save money on health insurance premiums by hiring only healthy people.

HR directors and others who are privy to employee’s medical information should regard the diagnosis as highly confidential. Medical and employment records should be kept in a locked file cabinet. Employers should even go so far as trying to put the medical information out of their minds. Philip Cohen, a noted VP of Human Resources in Florida, goes even further. “Once the benefits question has been addressed, employers need to forget any confidential medical information that they learned.”

A key feature of the HIPAA law, frequently called the Privacy Act, is this guarantee of privacy regarding medical information. Unfortunately, in the past, too many employers treated this confidential information as juicy office gossip. An employee’s personal health information, such as being HIV positive or having cancer, was often shared with coworkers. HIPPA makes such action by employers or even coworkers illegal.

Under the HIPAA law, employers need to treat any medical information they may encounter on employees as confidential. Often employers learn of an employee’s medical diagnosis when acting as a liason with the health insurance provider. At other times, an employee will share a diagnosis with an employer to explain why he or she is taking time off work.

Prior to the HIPAA law, employees were often reluctant to change jobs because it involved a change in health care coverage. Usually the new policy limited or even excluded treatment for preexisting conditions, altogether. Thus, an employee who had a heart attack or cancer surgery which was covered with the old employer, would find herself without coverage for the same illness, with a new employer. HIPAA solved that problem.

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