Dr. Ricardo Velazquez - Internal Medicine
Your trust is very important to us and our Practice is strongly committed to protecting your privacy. We have created the following Privacy Statement to give you an overview of the type of information we collect, how the information is used and how the information is safeguarded.
Title I: Health Care Access, Portability, and Renewability
Title I of HIPAA regulates the availability and breadth of group health plans and certain individual health insurance policies. It amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Public Health Service Act, and the Internal Revenue Code.
Title I requires the coverage of and also limits restrictions that a group health plan can place on benefits for preexisting conditions. Group health plans may refuse to provide benefits relating to preexisting conditions for a period of 12 months after enrollment in the plan or 18 months in the case of late enrollment. Title I allows individuals to reduce the exclusion period by the amount of time that they had "creditable coverage" prior to enrolling in the plan and after any "significant breaks" in coverage. "Creditable coverage" is defined quite broadly and includes nearly all group and individual health plans, Medicare, and Medicaid. A "significant break" in coverage is defined as any 63 day period without any creditable coverage.
Title I  also requires insurers to issue policies without exclusion to those leaving group health plans with creditable coverage (see above) exceeding 18 months, and  renew individual policies for as long as they are offered or provide alternatives to discontinued plans for as long as the insurer stays in the market without exclusion regardless of health condition.
Some health care plans are exempted from Title I requirements, such as long-term health plans and limited-scope plans such as dental or vision plans that are offered separately from the general health plan. However, if such benefits are part of the general health plan, then HIPAA still applies to such benefits. For example, if the new plan offers dental benefits, then it must count creditable continuous coverage under the old health plan towards any of its exclusion periods for dental benefits.
An alternate method of calculating creditable continuous coverage is available to the health plan under Title I. That is, 5 categories of health coverage can be considered separately, including dental and vision coverage. Anything not under those 5 categories must use the general calculation (e.g., the beneficiary may be counted with 18 months of general coverage, but only 6 months of dental coverage, because the beneficiary did not have a general health plan that covered dental until 6 months prior to the application date). Since limited-coverage plans are exempt from HIPAA requirements, the odd case exists in which the applicant to a general group health plan cannot obtain certificates of creditable continuous coverage for independent limited-scope plans such as dental to apply towards exclusion periods of the new plan that does include those coverages.
Hidden exclusion periods are not valid under Title I (e.g., "The accident, to be covered, must have occurred while the beneficiary was covered under this exact same health insurance contract"). Such clauses must not be acted upon by the health plan and also must be re-written so that they comply with HIPAA.
To illustrate, suppose someone enrolls in a group health plan on January 1, 2006. This person had previously been insured from January 1, 2004 until February 1, 2005 and from August 1, 2005 until December 31, 2005. To determine how much coverage can be credited against the exclusion period in the new plan, start at the enrollment date and count backwards until a significant break in coverage is reached. So, the five months of coverage between August 1, 2005 and December 31, 2005 clearly counts against the exclusion period. But the period without insurance between February 1, 2005 and August 1, 2005 is greater than 63 days. Thus, this is a significant break in coverage, and any coverage prior to it cannot be deducted from the exclusion period. So, this person could deduct five months from his exclusion period, reducing the exclusion period to seven months. Hence, Title I requires that any preexisting condition begin to be covered on August 1, 2006.
Title II: Preventing Health Care Fraud and Abuse; Administrative Simplification; Medical Liability Reform
Title II of HIPAA defines policies, procedures and guidelines for maintaining the privacy and security of individually identifiable health information as well as outlining numerous offenses relating to health care and sets civil and criminal penalties for violations. It also creates several programs to control fraud and abuse within the health care system.However, the most significant provisions of Title II are its Administrative Simplification rules. Title II requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to draft rules aimed at increasing the efficiency of the health care system by creating standards for the use and dissemination of health care information.
These rules apply to "covered entities" as defined by HIPAA and the HHS. Covered entities include health plans, health care clearinghouses, such as billing services and community health information systems, and health care providers that transmit health care data in a way that is regulated by HIPAA. Per the requirements of Title II, the HHS has promulgated five rules regarding Administrative Simplification: the Privacy Rule, the Transactions and Code Sets Rule, the Security Rule, the Unique Identifiers Rule, and the Enforcement Rule.
The effective compliance date of the Privacy Rule was April 14, 2003 with a one-year extension for certain "small plans". The HIPAA Privacy Rule regulates the use and disclosure ofProtected Health Information (PHI) held by "covered entities" (generally, health care clearinghouses, employer sponsored health plans, health insurers, and medical service providers that engage in certain transactions.By regulation, the Department of Health and Human Services extended the HIPAA privacy rule to independent contractors of covered entities who fit within the definition of "business associates". PHI is any information held by a covered entity which concerns health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that can be linked to an individual This is interpreted rather broadly and includes any part of an individual's medical record or payment history. Covered entities must disclose PHI to the individual within 30 days upon request.They also must disclose PHI when required to do so by law such as reporting suspected child abuse to state child welfare agencies. Covered entities may disclose protected health information to law enforcement officials for law enforcement purposes as required by law (including court orders, court-ordered warrants, subpoenas) and administrative requests; or to identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person.
A covered entity may disclose PHI (Protected Health Information) to facilitate treatment, payment, or health care operations without a patient's express written authorization. Any other disclosures of PHI (Protected Health Information) require the covered entity to obtain written authorization from the individual for the disclosure. However, when a covered entity discloses any PHI, it must make a reasonable effort to disclose only the minimum necessary information required to achieve its purpose.
The Privacy Rule gives individuals the right to request that a covered entity correct any inaccurate PHI. It also requires covered entities to take reasonable steps to ensure the confidentiality of communications with individuals. For example, an individual can ask to be called at his or her work number instead of home or cell phone numbers.
The Privacy Rule requires covered entities to notify individuals of uses of their PHI. Covered entities must also keep track of disclosures of PHI and document privacy policies and procedures. They must appoint a Privacy Official and a contact person responsible for receiving complaints and train all members of their workforce in procedures regarding PHI.
An individual who believes that the Privacy Rule is not being upheld can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR).However, according to the Wall Street Journal, the OCR has a long backlog and ignores most complaints. "Complaints of privacy violations have been piling up at the Department of Health and Human Services. Between April of 2003 and November 2006, the agency fielded 23,886 complaints related to medical-privacy rules, but it has not yet taken any enforcement actions against hospitals, doctors, insurers or anyone else for rule violations. A spokesman for the agency says it has closed three-quarters of the complaints, typically because it found no violation or after it provided informal guidance to the parties involved." However, in July 2011, UCLA agreed to pay $865,500 in a settlement regarding potential HIPAA violations. An HHS Office for Civil Rights investigation showed that from 2005 to 2008 unauthorized employees repeatedly and without legitimate cause looked at the electronic protected health information of numerous UCLAHS patients.
2013 Final Omnibus Rule Update
In January 2013, HIPAA was updated via the Final Omnibus Rule. Included in changes were updates to the Security Rule and Breach Notification portions of the HITECH Act. The greatest changes relate to the expansion of requirements to include business associates, where only covered entities had originally been held to uphold these sections of the law.
Additionally, the definition of 'significant harm' to an individual in the analysis of a breach was updated to provide more scrutiny to covered entities with the intent of disclosing more breaches which had been previously gone unreported. Previously an organization needed proof that harm had occurred whereas now they must prove the counter, that harm had not occurred.
Protection of PHI was changed from indefinite to 50 years after death. More severe penalties were also approved for violation of PHI privacy.
ADDRESSING PRIVACY CONCERNS
If you have any questions about this Privacy Statement please contact us:
Dr. Ricardo Velazquez , M.D.
2010 Goldring Ave. Ste. 308
Las Vegas, NV 89106
Ph. (702) 399 - 8808
Fax (702) 380 - 8256