Entering addiction treatment is a tough decision. You’re leaving behind family and friends, a job or classes, and committing yourself to a difficult process. You know it’ll be worth it when you come out the other side sober, but that doesn’t necessarily keep the anxiety at bay. One thing you might be thinking, that you can set your mind at ease about, is your privacy. Some people find it embarrassing to admit that they were struggling with addiction or that they need help. Others might be concerned about what their families will think. People returning to or searching for new jobs worry that the stigma might keep them from working. Whatever the reason, it’s a private thing, and you don’t have to share it with anyone you don’t want to.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 gives you control over who has access to your medical records and who the doctors can share information with. The following are protected: information that any health care providers put in your medical record, discussions your doctor has about your care or treatment with other medical professionals, any information about you located in your insurer’s computer system, billing information, and most other things that can be considered health-related.

These rules have to be followed by insurance plans, including company health plans and Medicare and Medicaid. Healthcare providers, including most doctors, clinics, hospitals, psychologists, chiropractors, nursing homes, pharmacies, and dentists are also subject to the rules. Finally, HIPAA applies to certain outside entities like billing companies, claim processing companies, companies that store medical records, and even lawyers, accountants, and IT specialists.

Other entities that may have access to your health information but do not have to abide by HIPAA rules include life insurers, workers compensation carriers, most schools and school districts, child protective service agencies, and law enforcement agencies.

There are special privacy protections for alcohol and drug abuse patient records, covered by 42 Code of Federal Regulations (“CFR”) Part 2, which apply to most drug and alcohol treatment programs or other practices that receive federal assistance. Any medical practitioner that uses controlled substances to help with detox or relapse prevention (such as suboxone) is also subject to these regulations. The specific information protected is anything that would identify a person as a current or past drug user or a participant in a treatment program.

Treatment centers or other entities that violate HIPAA may face a fine of up to $500 for the first offense and $5,000 for subsequent offenses. Any programs or employees that are licensed or state certified run the risk of losing their license or certification. Also, as the injured party, you can sue anyone who discloses your health information without your consent.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.




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