Excuse Me…I Thought HIPAA Protected Us and The Privacy of Medical Records


Dearest Readers:

Have you ever gotten a phone call from an “unavailable” phone number only to take the time to answer it?

Yesterday, I did. Normally, I do not answer the phone when the number is “unavailable;” however, I was waiting for a phone call to let me know the service tech was on his way. When I answered, the voice on the other line had a different accent. You probably know the type — a mixture of accents difficult to understand. This time, the voice was a female voice. “Hello, Bar–ba-ra…How are you today?”

At first, I was poised and polite. I answered her questions, then out of curiosity, I said: “Please allow me to interrupt you for one moment.”

She paused. Inhaled. Exhaled. Now, the Julia Sugarbaker personality and voice inside of me said: “You do know that in America we have our health records protected. At least, I THOUGHT we did. Tell me please…Just HOW do you know about us. And while I’m at it — You do know I do not have back problems, or knee problems, or whatever you are pitching to me. This is America…We have the HIPAA act here. Please tell me why you are calling me about health records when you do not KNOW my health records.”

Silence. Complete total silence on the other line.

“Hello,” I said. “You didn’t answer my question and since you’ve phoned me, I have the right to know just who you are, what you are doing, and why you are calling.”

A moment later, the phone clicked. Yes, she hung up!

So — what is HIPAA?

HIPAA – is The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, established on August 21, 1996, created by President Bill Clinton, when the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law. HIPAA was created to “improve the portability and accountability of health insurance coverage” for employees between jobs. https://www.google.com/search?safe=active&source=hp&ei=ykKFW6iwLcKgswWbo6Yo&q=when+was+hipaa+first+established&oq=when+was+hipaa+es&gs_l=psy-ab.1.1.0j0i22i30k1l3.2890.7365.0.10750.19.18.0.0.0.0.130.1880.1j16.18.0..2..0…1.1.64.psy-ab..1.17.1879.0..0i131k1.82.FXIwFb9ltLk

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html

“Most of us believe that our medical and other health information is private and should be protected, and we want to know who has this information. HIPAA, The Privacy Rule, a Federal law, gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. The Privacy Rule applies to all forms of individuals’ protected health information, whether electronic, written, or oral. The Security Rule is a Federal law that requires security for health information in electronic form.”

My question is a simple one — just WHY do these people phone about health issues? Has the information from our health records been released to them — WITHOUT our consent??? If so — HOW? And WHY?

I do know that when the Veterans Administration phones our home, I allow it to ring so they can leave a message. Of course the message is limited to what is revealed. They only say they are “calling for the person born on” (and they share his birthdate). Years ago HIPAA, I answered the phone when they called. Not anymore! Every time I would inquire about what the message was, and they stated they could not ‘release the information to me.’ My reply: I’m his wife. You can share the information with me.

Nope! Nada. NEVER!

I would like to get to the bottom of why these people phone, but every time I answer they start asking:

We understand you have back issues. Not that I know about.

We understand you have heart issues. Nope. I think I still have a heart!

We understand you have Diabetes issues. None of your business!

And then they disconnect. How dare them to interrupt my daily activities with their phone calls about medical issues.

Maybe I should file a complaint with HIPAA; however, these people who phone me do not share their names, or where they are from. Their number is Unavailable!

I suspect they are from either Nigeria, India, or some unforeseen planet no American is familiar with. How about you? Do you get these phone calls?

To say I get irritated is an understatement. I think the next time they phone I will say, in a tearful, dramatic voice:

HELP ME! I’ve fallen and can’t get up.

What would you do?

According to this site: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/filing-a-complaint/index.html, consumers may file a complaint — “If you believe that a HIPAA-covered entity or its business associate violated your (or someone else’s) health information privacy rights or committed another violation of the Privacy, Security, or Breach Notification Rules, you may file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR can investigate complaints against covered entities (health plans, health care clearinghouses, or health care providers that conduct certain transactions electronically) and their business associates.”

If only I had the name of the person, I would pursue reporting them, but for now, I’ll simply ignore UNAVAILABLE phone calls!

 

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