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Wayne Parsons
Wayne Parsons
Attorney • (808) 845-2211

How Much Do You Know About HIPAA?

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Most people already know that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of their health information. But it also protects your rights to continue your health insurance as you or a spouse moves from job to job, and limits exclusions for preexisting conditions. HIPAA guarantees that a group health plan cannot exclude coverage of a person’s preexisting condition for more than 12 to 18 months after their enrollment date. Here is the basic list of protections of HIPAA that everyone should know from the U.S. Department of Labor. HIPAA protects workers and their families by:

  • Limiting exclusions for preexisting medical conditions (known as preexisting conditions)

  • Providing credit against maximum preexisting condition exclusion periods for prior health coverage and a process for providing certificates showing periods of prior coverage to a new group health plan or health insurance issuer

  • Providing new rights that allow individuals to enroll for health coverage when they lose other health coverage, get married or add a new dependent

  • Prohibiting discrimination in enrollment and in premiums charged to employees and their dependents based on health status-related factors

  • Guaranteeing availability of health insurance coverage for small employers and renewability of health insurance coverage for both small and large employers

  • Preserving the states’ role in regulating health insurance, including the states’ authority to provide greater protections than those available under federal law

Preexisting Condition Exclusions

  • The law defines a preexisting condition as one for which medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment was recommended or received during the 6-month period prior to an individual’s enrollment date (which is the earlier of the first day of health coverage or the first day of any waiting period for coverage)

  • Group health plans and issuers may not exclude an individual’s preexisting medical condition from coverage for more than 12 months (18 months for late enrollees) after an individual’s enrollment date

  • Under HIPAA, a new employer’s plan must give individuals credit for the length of time they had prior continuous health coverage, without a break in coverage of 63 days or more, thereby reducing or eliminating the 12-month exclusion period (18 months for late enrollees)

Creditable Coverage

  • Includes prior coverage under another group health plan, an individual health insurance policy, COBRA, Medicaid, Medicare, CHAMPUS, the Indian Health Service, a state health benefits risk pool, FEHBP, the Peace Corps Act, or a public health plan.

Certificates Of Creditable Coverage

  • Certificates of creditable coverage must be provided automatically and free of charge by the plan or issuer when an individual loses coverage under the plan, becomes entitled to elect COBRA continuation coverage or exhausts COBRA continuation coverage. A certificate must also be provided free of charge upon request while you have health coverage or anytime within 24 months after your coverage ends

  • Certificates of creditable coverage should contain information about the length of time you or your dependents had coverage as well as the length of any waiting period for coverage that applied to you or your dependents

  • For plan years beginning on or after July 1, 2005, certificates of creditable coverage should also include an educational statement that describes individuals’ HIPAA portability rights. A new model certificate is available on EBSAs Web site.

  • If a certificate is not received, or the information on the certificate is wrong, you should contact your prior plan or issuer. You have a right to show prior creditable coverage with other evidence — like pay stubs, explanation of benefits, letters from a doctor — if you cannot get a certificate

Special Enrollment Rights

  • Are provided for individuals who lose their coverage in certain situations, including on separation, divorce, death, termination of employment and reduction in hours. Special enrollment rights also are provided if employer contributions toward the other coverage terminates

  • Are provided for employees, their spouses and new dependents upon marriage, birth, adoption or placement for adoption

Discrimination Prohibitions

  • Ensure that individuals are not excluded from coverage, denied benefits, or charged more for coverage offered by a plan or issuer, based on health status-related factors