Does it seem like you have to sign a new document every time you go the doctor? And dentist? And even the audiologist? Do you ever wonder why?
To protect YOU. Your providers have a lot of private information about you they go through great efforts to make sure that your personal and health privacy are well protected.
In 1996 Congress established privacy and insurance administration rules (commonly referred to as HIPAA) that require your providers to manage your health information and guarantee your privacy. The form you are signing is part of this requirement. When you sign the forms you are not necessarily agreeing with the Provider’s plan; you are simply acknowledging that you have been informed that a plan exists.
There have been a few important changes to the HIPAA rules recently so you might be asked to sign a new form, even if it hasn’t been that long since you signed the last one. Your provide can face audits and some hefty fines if the new requirements aren’t met.
What else could be buried in the fine print? The most common contents of the forms you sign are:
- Permission to bill you insurance and an agreement that you will pay what insurance doesn’t cover.
- Permission to contact you about your own healthcare. Often, you will be asked for your preferred manner of communication (email, mail, telephone, etc…)
- There may be a specific permission to bill Medicare.
You are not required to sign these forms but the Provider is required to ask you to do so. If you aren’t sure what you are signing or why, don’t be afraid to ask.
US Department of Health and Human Services is the best place to go if you want more information.