Over the years, various regulations have been enacted to ensure increased amounts of protection for the general public. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) was designed for several different reasons. The most notable include: to ensure that laid off employees are receiving continuous health insurance coverage, prevent fraud / abuse and to protect the privacy of all patients. This is significant, because it created a new standard for all health insurance providers, insurance companies and employers to follow. However, various problems have emerged over the years. One of the most notable is: the underlying costs of these regulations are adding to: the expenses for health care organizations and professionals. This is problematic, because the program was designed to address issues that could be affecting the workers and their families. Yet, over the years it has morphed into another big bureaucracy that is increasing the number of procedures within the industry. (Kibbe, 2001) To fully understand the overall scope of these issues require: examining the policy, what it was intended to address, the history of the law, if it has been effective, what groups have benefited the most and if there is any information on future amendments. Together, these different elements will provide the greatest insights as to how HIPPA failed to: address its intended goals and the long-term implications it is having on health care.
I. What is HIPPA?
The Purpose of HIPPA and the Role it Plays in Health Care
HIPPA was first enacted in 1996. It was designed to accomplish a number of different objectives to include: to protect workers who have lost their jobs from loosing health care coverage, promoting the use of electronic health transactions, and it offers increased amounts of privacy / security protections. To address these different issues the law is subdivided into two sections to include: Title I and Title II. Title I is designed to prevent workers from losing their health care coverage in event that they are laid off or fired from their jobs. Under these different provisions, employees are allowed to maintain coverage at the same rate for a period of one year.
Title II requires the establishment of national procedures for storing, sending and retrieving health information. In this part of the law, there are several different elements that are examined to include: privacy, enforcement and security. Under these regulations, all health care providers must follow the different provisions for: ensuring patient privacy and protections at all times. The enforcement rule sets various standards for: violating the law through civil penalties and it creates a process for following up on possible breaches of the act. (Sullivan, 2004)
II. What was it Intended to Address?
The Challenges Facing the Health Care System
HIPPA was intended to improve the amounts of transparency in the health care sector by: providing a way of having various medical records shared electronically among providers. The basic idea was that creating some kind of federal guidelines will give the industry a basic foundation for implementing these procedures. Over the course of time, this will help to improve the kinds of treatment that is being provided by: ensuing that health organizations have access to real time information about their patients. At the same time, it was intended to improve protections for workers who are losing their jobs. As, they will more than likely lose: any kind of coverage for themselves and their families in the event they are laid off. Under the law, these people can be able to maintain their coverage, at the group rate they are paying under their employer's plan. This is significant, because it shows how the law was designed to: improve the transparency and address loop holes that existed in the system. (Sullivan, 2004)
III. What is the History of the Legislation?
The Background of the Law
Prior to the implementation of HIPPA, most health care providers had greater amounts of flexibility in reading a patient's medical history. This is because, there were no: specific privacy rules and anyone could find out about the patient from a computer terminal. For the most part, this increased efficiency and it meant that health care professionals were able to more quickly able to address patient issues. However, at the same time many of these filing systems were considered to be obsolete and they often contained inaccuracies. The lack of regulations in these areas was highlighting a number of potential problems to include: easy access to a wide variety of medical records and the health care industry was considered to be inefficient. (Kiel, 2006)
At the same time, many workers were losing insurance coverage the moment that they were laid off. This has become a major issue, as they have no kind of protection for their families in event of an accident. Over the course of time, this could mean that the numbers of uninsured will increase. As they are losing their health care coverage, a short while after being laid off. This is when many families will turn to social service agencies for support. (Kiel, 2006)
To deal with this lingering issues; Congress wanted to create a law that could modernize the health care system and provide added protections for working families. As a result, the different provisions of HIPPA were enacted to amend: the Employee Income Retirement Act, the Public Health Service Act and the Internal Revenue Code. This is significant, because it is showing how the law was designed to: provide added protections and improve accountability within the health care industry. (Kiel, 2006)
IV. Has the Legislation been Effective at Addressing the Problems?
The Long-Term Effects of HIPPA Regulations on the Health Care Industry
Since the implementation of various provisions, HIPPA has been effective at addressing the some problems surrounding: patient privacy and it is providing added protections to laid off workers. However, at the same time it has created a number of different problems to include: it has increased costs, created more confusion and it has caused secondary medical records to be compiled. The way the HIPPA is increasing costs, is by requiring all health care providers and professionals to follow different provisions of the law surrounding patient privacy. This is problematic, because it means that all health care professionals must utilize certain procedures to: ensure that they are in compliance with the law. This will cause their costs for: storing and retrieving patient information to increase exponentially. ("Impact of HIPPA," 2005)
At the same time, they must train various staff members and patients about how these procedures work. This will increase the overall costs facing a health care provider. As, they are forced to spend added amounts of time training employees about: these different procedures and any new changes to the law. In some cases, health care providers may have to hire outside consultants and additional personnel to deal with these issues. The staff members must then explain the different provisions of the law to: their patients and what these changes mean repeatedly. Over the course of time, this can have a negative impact on health care providers by causing productivity to decline. This is because, the costs facing the facility have increased and the profit margins have declined. ("Impact of HIPPA," 2005)
The way that the law creates more confusion is based upon: the use of the patient identifier. This was designed to provide health care providers with easy access to their patient's medical history. However, the use of this system has increased the overall amounts of confusion surrounding access to a patient's medical history. This is problematic, because it means that many different health care providers', who are delivering continuous care services to an individual, may not have access to the information they need. At the same time, this could increase the chances that there will be some kind of medical errors in the information. This is troubling, because it showing how the implementation of HIPPA has increased confusion about: who can access patient files and the information it contains. Over the course of time, this can reduce the amounts of care that is being provided to patients. ("Impact of HIPPA," 2005)
The way that this can lead to the creation of secondary medical records, is that many patients will often compile their own medical history. In most cases, the information that is being collected is: stored online or at less secure devices, with it often containing personal facts about the patient. This is problematic, because it is showing how the frustration that individuals have in obtaining their medical files is leading to a proliferation of personal medical information. ("Impact of HIPPA," 2005)
At the same time, numerous individuals could be using what is known as cloud computing to store these files. This can be problematic, because in the event that there is some kind of security breach this information could be compromised. In many ways, this highlighting how the individual patient is violating various provisions of the law by: compiling their own set…