Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA / Medical Privacy Act) was passed by Congress in order to protect health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs, and ensure uniformity in the way patients’ records are handled and maintained throughout the United States.

Purpose of HIPAA

A major focus of HIPAA is administrative simplification, reduction of health care costs, and the reduction of waste, fraud, and abuse in health insurance and health delivery systems, as well as protection of personal health information. HIPAA reforms the health care system by establishing national standards and uniform methods for the collection, maintenance, transmission, use, privacy, and security of personal health information and data. The HIPAA regulations impact organizations, private or public, that transmit or receive health care information, including the County of Tuolumne.

HIPAA Compliance

The County of Tuolumne is committed to safe-guarding patients' privacy, especially the rights of people in sensitive health groups including those receiving mental healthcare, drug and alcohol treatment services, sexually transmitted disease services, and HIV treatment. In addition to current California privacy laws, HIPAA mandates a national standard on how health care providers and health plans must protect medical information.

The Human Resources / Risk Management office ensures that the County of Tuolumne is in compliance with the HIPAA / Medical Privacy Act. We oversee the HIPAA activities of all departments within the county, especially those of our covered functions, which include:
  • Tuolumne County Health Department
  • Tuolumne County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services
  • Tuolumne County Ambulance

Notice of Privacy Practices

HIPAA requires all treatment providers and health plans to distribute a notice that explains your rights as a patient, how your medical information may be used, what our legal obligations are to you, and how you may contact us for information or to file a complaint. This notice is called our Notice of Privacy Practices and is available at any of the above listed facilities.

HIPAA Rights

As of April 14, 2003, federal law provides a baseline of privacy protections for your personal health information. In order to protect your personal health information, you need to know what protections and rights you have and what you can do if you believe they have been violated. All individuals have the following rights:
  • You have the right to be told how your health care professional will use your personal health information. Most health care professionals and health plans must give you a notice of privacy practices. This notice tells you how your personal information about your health will be used. It tells you who will see your information, what your rights are, and where you can file a complaint. Generally, your health care professional uses your health information to treat you and to refer you to other recommended services. Your information is also used to bill your insurance company.
  • You have the right to request restrictions on certain uses and disclosures of your personal health information.
  • You have the right to request confidential communications of your personal health information.
  • You have the right to request to inspect or receive a copy of your personal health information maintained by your health care professional or health plan.
  • You have the right to request an amendment of your personal health information.
  • You have the right to request an accounting of disclosures of your personal health information that you did not specifically authorize or that was not used for treatment, payment, and heath care operations.

This is only a brief description of your rights and does not add to, change, or replace the rights described in the notice of privacy practices provided by various County of Tuolumne programs or by individual health care providers or insurers.

Additional Information

For more information about HIPAA, contact the Tuolumne County privacy officer at 209-533-6636.