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The Privacy Time Bomb

"Comply with HIPAA now or risk big fines later." The November issue of Inc. magazine includes a column with this title and states:

"If you provide health insurance, you're sitting on a potential time bomb. That's because on April 14, 2004, tough new privacy regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, go into effect for small companies. You have six months to get in compliance or risk a hefty fine-or even jail time.

"The new privacy laws are designed "to prevent employers from using information received in connection with an employee benefit plan when making employment-related decisions, such as hiring, promoting, or firing," . . . . To do so, the law erects a formidable privacy shield around your employees' personal health information. It would be a HIPAA violation, for example, for the person handling insurance claims at a small company to tell the CEO that an employee has cancer, even if it will likely affect the organization's insurance premiums."

The research/resources section of Client Community includes a new comprehensive online manual called the "HIPAA Privacy Manual for Employers." Developed by HIPAA Solutions Rx and written by the Washington, D.C., law firm of Miller and Chevalier, it is designed to help you implement compliant policies and procedures.

There is no cost for you to review the entire manual (more than 300-pages). Their Compliance Checklist (listed separately for your convenience) outlines 14 major steps that you will need to take. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that it will only take you around 960 hours to "do it yourself." (Maybe someday the bureaucrats will have to comply with their own requirements.)

Regardless of how much information you want to obtain on your own, we are happy to help you select a suitable vendor to reduce this onerous requirement and to implement compliant policies and procedures.

Fortunately, quality solutions are often available for less than a thousand dollars. For example, HIPAA Solutions Rx is one of the leading vendors and, through their partnership with Online Benefits, will offer reduced prices for either their CD which includes a complete copy of the manual and fillable forms and/or training that you and your employees will need.

2004 Hannaway Associates