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Employee Safety, Health, and Welfare Law Paper

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Employee Safety, Health, and Welfare Law Paper

April 30, 2006

Introduction

In the ever changing world of technology lawmakers are tasked with keeping up with the times. The electronic revolution has changed the way nearly everything is looked at and done. Health insurance and medical protocol and procedures have been streamlined by the internet and digitization of data and data transfer. Records that allow doctors to know and recognize preexisting conditions and relative information can be accessed immediately and allow faster diagnoses and treatment. It also provides a quicker approval of needed testing and procedures by heath care management companies so patients get what they need faster. All of the advantages provided by the advancement in the industry also bring to the table new problems and risks. In response to these the government acted to resolve issues and provide greater protection for the American people by passing HIPAA.

HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law originally passed in 1996. It was designed to reform the health insurance system in the United States and simplify administrative processes within the health care industry. Along the way other provisions were added relating to privacy and security. The Department of Public Health and Human Services’ first passage of the legislation was aimed at streamlining health care administration by mandating standards in the processing, maintaining and transferring patient data.

The department also recognized that greater privacy and control of the data held by the various organizations must be established. As healthcare becomes digitized and transferred electronically the potential for misuse of the data becomes more possible. Many privacy advocacy groups in across the company lobbied to increase the security and limit access to medical data. Cases of discrimination based on medical conditions were becoming more prevalent. Cases where employees were terminated based on HIV status or other conditions that did not directly affect a person’s ability to perform a job began to get widespread notice. In response to pressure to tighten restrictions the release of and use of medical records HIPAA was modified in 2000 to add strict privacy and security compliance. The final legislation compliance date for all organizations was April of 2004.

HIPAA in the Workplace

The implications of the law to business run deep. It can affect everything from how a person is screened for employment to record keeping on employees. HIPAA in conjunction with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and ADA prevents discrimination based on disabilities or medical conditions. The adoption of the law prohibits requiring certain pre-employment examinations and discrimination based on the results of allowed tests and evaluations. The law also requires a high level of security and privacy control on the data collected during these processes.

HIPAA also has other affects on certain industries such as mass media. In the news business gathering information and disseminating information to the public is the inherent responsibility and function of the business. HIPAA laws prevent the release of medical information to parties without a need to know. Healthcare providers have had their own policy on releasing information. The new policy healthcare providers must follow requires expressed written consent prior to releasing any patient information. This includes information whether someone is even a patient or has ever been. The media world often follows cases of illness that have a direct implication to the public health and welfare. Cases where individuals may be treated for contagions or something as simple as a follow to an accident to report the current condition now require releases signed to give any information to the public. Prior to 2004 an accredited media representative could call an institution and request certain information and it was released. Today that information is protected.

Hospitals and healthcare providers understand the need to release certain information and have put policies into affect to assist media outlets in performing their duties while still protecting the privacy of patients

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