Collection Agencies & HIPAA Laws

By Taunda Edwards

The United States Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPPA, protects the privacy of a patient's medical information, such as care a patient sought and medical bills. HIPPA regulates who can view this information and how many times the information can be viewed. However, when it comes to unpaid medical bills, the health-care provider has the right to disclose the necessary information of a patient to collect on the debt.

Misconception

The law allows health-care facilities, insurance companies and other health-care providers to disclose some of a patient's information to a collection agency to collect a debt. HIPPA laws do not protect a patient from his billing information being shared. Once a patient receives a medical service, he has the obligation to pay for the services received. As with any other debt, if the debtor has not submitted payment or made payment arrangements, the lender or business can use various methods to collect the debt.

Type Of Information Disclosed

Under HIPPA laws, the information that can be shared with a collection agency is limited. The information that may be disclosed to a collection agency includes the debtor's name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, account number, payment history and the name and address of the health-care facility or provider. However, HIPPA laws do not allow the medical records to be submitted to a collection agency. The services a patient received are private, and those records may not be disclosed to a collection agency.

Warning

The same laws that apply to disputing credit cards and revolving accounts under the Fair Credit Billing Act do not apply to medical bills. A debtor still has the right to dispute any medical billing errors, but the dispute process is more complicated. The debtor should stay on top of his medical bills and dispute the debt before it is passed along to the collection agency.

Limitations

HIPPA laws limit the people who can view a patient's medical information. However, when a patient owes a debt, the law does not limit who can view the debt information and how many times the information is viewed. A debtor does not have to be notified when her information is being disclosed to a collection agency. If the patient has medical debt, this information can be passed on to the collection agency without notice.

Filing A Complaint

If your privacy was violated by a covered entity, you can file a complaint. Contact the Office for Civil Rights, which investigates the complaint against the covered entities. The complaint must be written and can be filed by email, fax, through mail or electronically. When a person files a complaint against an entity, HIPAA regulations forbid the entity from retaliating against the person for filing the complaint.

About the Author

Taunda Edwards began writing in 1997 and received her bachelor's degree in secondary education from Miami University of Ohio in 2004. In 2005 she pursued her writing career on a full-time basis. Her first novel was published by T.A.D.D. Writes publications. She was a 2006 "Moviemaker Magazine" feature.

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