The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federally published document on privacy regulations for health care that was passed under the Clinton administration and affirmed by the Bush administration. HIPAA established, for the first time, a set of regulations to standardize the collection, storage, and dissemination of individually identifiable health information (IIHI). HIPAA covers the confidentiality of health records in two key rules, 1) the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Rule and 2) the Privacy Rule. The HIPAA document is over 1000 pages, and the full text is available at http://aspe.os.dhhs.gov/admnsimp.

The HIPAA regulations require health care providers who are covered by the act to develop policies and procedures to safeguard the privacy of individual health information. Agencies and individuals that have to comply with HIPAA regulations are termed a “covered entity.” A covered entity is a health plan, a health care provider, or a health care clearinghouse that transmits health information in electronic form to submit claims to Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers and/or third-party insurance for services.

The AAC Institute (AACI) is not considered a covered entity under the current HIPAA definition. However, the AACI voluntarily agrees to comply with the spirit of the law contained in the HIPAA standards and has established policies and procedures to safeguard the privacy of IIHI. In particular, all individually identifiable information regarding performance monitoring is collected, stored, and disseminated following HIPAA standards, as well as the human research procedures approved by the AACI Institutional Review Board (IRB). At such time as necessary, the AACI is willing and prepared to establish Business Associate agreements as required by covered entities under HIPAA.

Know Your Professional Responsibilities
Speech-Language Pathologists are encouraged to become familiar with HIPAA regulations and standards by reviewing any guidelines established by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Several articles and informational pages concerning HIPAA can be accessed at the ASHA website at http://www.asha.org. A search on HIPAA will produce numerous results.

Know and Use Your Client Rights
Individuals with disabilities may be receiving health care services through several agencies and/or individuals identified as covered entities under HIPAA. Consumers and family members are encouraged to become familiar with the Client Rights established by HIPAA. These rights include:
§ The Right to inspect and copy records.
§ The Right to request amendments to records.
§ The Right to request an accounting of any disclosures of records.
§ The Right to request alternative methods of communicating records.
§ The Right to request limited internal use of records.

The AACI encourages consumers and family members to use their rights to access the information in records regarding the collection and reporting of performance measurement data, and the documented use of evidence to support clinical decisions regarding recommendations for assistive technology.

Additional Resources
Additional information on HIPAA is available at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website at http://cms.gov/hipaa/hipaa2

Snoopi Botten, an individual who relies on AAC, has presented on AAC Consumer Rights and Privacy at several national assistive technology conferences. The slides of his presentation from the 2002 CSUN conference are available for viewing.

Margo Broehl, Attorney at Law and AAC Institute Trustee, is the legal interpreter of HIPAA regulations and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) human subject protection guidelines for the AACI.