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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as the Patient Privacy Act, was enacted by Congress to insure that an individual's medical treatment and records are kept private. HIPAA prevents physicians from displaying sign-in sheets with patients' names visible in public view, for example. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains a large amount of information concerning HIPAA.

Who is covered under HIPAA?

Health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and healthcare providers that conduct certain transactions electronically. For example, a one-doctor office that bills Medicaid electronically must comply.

Is all of my medical information that is maintained by my doctor covered under HIPAA?

No. Medical information that is required to be reported by law, such as a communicable disease, does not remain private.

What other rights do I have under HIPAA?

A patient has the right to:

  • access the medical information maintained on him or her;
  • limit the uses and disclosure of medical information;
  • request changes or amendments to the medical record;
  • revoke or limit authorizations for use of medical records; and
  • an accounting of medical records disclosed in the last 6 years.

How do I know my doctor is complying with HIPAA?

Your doctor is required to provide you with a Notice of Privacy explaining your rights under HIPAA.

If I believe my physician is violating HIPAA, what can I do?

You can file a complaint. The form is available on the HHS Web site for downloading.