Patient Privacy (HIPAA)

Overview of Patient Privacy

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA, PL104-191) was enacted to protect the privacy and availability of health insurance coverage and medical information. 

 The law’s primary goals include:

  • Protecting health insurance coverage for workers and their families in the event that the insured employee changes or loses a job;
  • Safeguarding the security and confidentiality of patient health information;
  • Establishing standards for the electronic exchange of health care information.

Title II of the law, known as the “administrative simplification” provision, required national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employers. The standards are meant to improve health care efficiency and effectiveness by encouraging the use of electronic data interchange in the nation’s health care system.

The AAFP understands the importance of insurance portability for our patients and is committed to improving the efficient exchange of medical data. In order to help address the opioid crisis, we support policies that allow physicians to access a patient’s substance use and treatment history, to ensure they treat them appropriately and safely. We are similarly supportive of HIPAA’s patient privacy objectives, providing these regulations do not undermine quality of care and are balanced against the practical realities that physicians face.

HIPAA has had a major impact on our health care system and on the practice of primary care medicine. The AAFP will continually monitor any proposed changes in the scope and reach of the law to ensure that HIPAA’s impact remains consistent with its intent.

Recent AAFP Communications

Joint Communications with Other Organizations

Joint Letter to CMS on Social Security Number Removal Initiative - May 11, 2017(5 page PDF)

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