HIPAA Frequently Asked Questions
(Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 as amended )
- Is Belmont University subject to the federal HIPAA legislation?
Belmont University's Employee Welfare Benefit Plan as well as the Student Health Clinic are covered by the new HIPAA rules and regulations. The HIPAA rules pertain to privacy and security of protected health information or PHI. All Belmont University employees must receive a Notice of HIPAA Privacy Practices that explain the new regulations. Students and employees who visit the Student Health Clinic here on campus will receive a slightly different notice.
- What does PHI really mean?
The "P" in PHI means that Belmont University must protect and maintain certain privacy standards related to individually identifiable health information. The "H" for health generally means medical or dental records, but can also refer to the kind of health insurance coverage that an employee chooses. For example, the fact that Susie Smith is a Belmont employee with family coverage and the UHC Premium Plan would be considered "PHI". Any health related information that identifies one individual and is obtained at our clinic or from our insurance programs for medical, dental, vision, and prescription drugs, as well as health care Flexible Spending Account and Employee Assistance Program would be covered under HIPAA. Information under the Workers' Compensation laws or the Family Medical Leave Act are not covered under HIPAA.
- I am a Belmont University faculty or staff member. I have a medical insurance claims question that I want my spouse to assist me with. How do the HIPAA regulations impact me? HIPAA laws require that the Office of Human Resources not discuss your personal health information with anyone else unless you have approved it. Generally this means that if you tell us in person to speak with your spouse about your claims issue, we will be happy to. If you call or email us, we may ask for you to fill out and give to us a Personal Representative Form that tells us what information you want discussed and to whom we can discuss it with. All of the HIPAA related forms are on the Office of Human Resources web site at www.belmont.edu/hr or can be picked up from our office.
- What about a claims issue on my son or daughter? My 2-year old can't give me permission to talk with the HR Office about his tonsillectomy.
That is correct. A parent or legal guardian of a minor child (under age 13 for health information) is automatically considered to be that child's Personal Representative and the Office of Human Resources will be happy to assist you with any claims issue.
- I filled out a written Personal Representative Form so my spouse can talk to HR. Do I need to do another one if I have another claims issue in the future?
Yes, HIPAA regulations require that the Office of Human Resources will need your permission to speak with anyone about each claims issue or question. We know this is somewhat bothersome, but the regulations were designed to protect each individual from information being released without his or her permission. In the case of an emergency, public health risk, or a request from law enforcement, the HR office will disclose information without a written approval from you.
- What kind of medical information does Belmont University maintain on me?
In general, the Office of Human Resources retains the benefit enrollment forms that you fill out as a new employee or during annual open enrollment. Most health related information is in summary form for billing purposes. The Office of Human Resources can use your PHI for 3 purposes - treatment, payment or operations. When you call us for a claims related question or issue, Susan Saunders as the administrator over UHC benefits can pull up an explanation of benefits which gives summary information about specific claims. The Student Health Clinic keeps personal and confidential medical files that no one on campus can see.
- Can I email the campus about a prayer request for one of my employees who is in the hospital? What about at a group meeting or staff chapel?
HIPAA officials are not going to fine you for a prayer request but many employees do not want their personal health condition discussed. We would encourage everyone to be especially careful of what information you put into an email.
- My colleague has a cast on her leg. Can I ask how she is doing?
Of course. HIPAA regulations do not impede free speech.
- Can I talk to one of the staff employees that I supervise about his absences or his request to leave early for a doctor appointment?
Yes, you can. HIPAA rules specifically do not cover the employment relationship. The sick leave and FMLA policies in the handbook are still in effect. What you should not do is give specifics to the rest of your department about the reasons why the employee is absent.
- Example: Don't say, "Jen won't be in her office today because she says the dust from the new carpet aggravates her allergies."
- Example: Do say, "Jen has a medical condition, so we are letting her work the phones today instead of having her work in her office."
- Are there others on campus that might have access to my PHI?
All employees with access to PHI have been identified and will have special training to ensure they understand and comply with regulations. We want to make sure that your private health information is kept confidential in every way possible.
- I am still a bit confused about HIPAA. Who should I contact?
The Office of Human Resources website at www.belmont.edu/hr will have the HIPAA policies and forms and a number of links related to HIPAA that you can review. If you would like to set up an appointment, call our office at 460-6456.