Laws relevant to individuals with disabilities as pertain to their Confidentiality Rights.
- HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 refers to a set of laws that dictate how medical information can be used and to whom that information can be given. The law requires that patients be informed of their rights. Patients are expected to sign a consent form indicating that they received the information and understand it. The primary goal of HIPPA is to help an individual keep their health insurance, and protect their confidentiality and security of their health care. For more information access the HIPPA website at: http://www.hhs.gov
- The Rights of Minors. Minors retain certain rights to the confidentiality of their records and information under HIPPA. If the health care provider concurs with the minor that the parents should not have access to his or her treatment records, the minor has a good chance of precluding parent(s) from access to the records or granting access to others. However, if the facility or provider does not concur, the minor’s chances of precluding access are minimal. Various circumstances may arise that compromise efforts to protect a child’s confidentiality. For example, if a child discloses to his health care specialist that he intends to harm himself or others, the provider is obligated to report this intent to the appropriate authorities in an effort to maintain the safety of the child or others. Should a child disclose parental abandonment, neglect, abuse or sexual abuse to a professional, that professional is bound by child abuse law to report the disclosure to the proper authorities — not to the alleged offender. Ultimately, attorneys and others seeking to protect the confidentiality of their minor clients should cast their attempts in the framework of “the best interest of the child.”
- Access to medical records. The Privacy Rule, under HIPAA, gives an individual, with few exceptions, the right to inspect, review, and receive a copy of their medical records and billing records that are held by health plans and health care providers. Only you or your personal representative (Health Care Proxy) has the right to access your records. A health care provider or health plan may send copies of your records to another provider or health plan as needed for treatment or payment or as authorized by you. You have the right to inspect and copy medical information maintained about your care. A request for access to this information must be made in writing. The facility can charge a fee for the service. After review of the information, the patient has the right to have amendments made to the record if he believes any piece of it is incorrect. Requests for amendments must also be made in writing.You do not have the right to access a provider’s psychotherapy notes. Psychotherapy notes are notes taken by a mental health professional during a conversation with the patient and kept separate from the patient’s medical and billing records. The Privacy Rule also does not permit the provider to make most disclosures of psychotherapy notes about you without your authorization.
Additional web sites that are helpful in understanding Confidentiality rights:
- New York State Department of Health. Who Will Speak for You Health Care Proxy Law: http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/patients/health_care_proxy/
- New York State Office of Mental Health HIPAA Privacy Rules for the Protection of Health and Mental Health Information: http://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/hipaa/phi_protection.html