Question: When does the obligation of a health care provider terminate with respect to safeguarding a patient’s health care information? Does death terminate the obligation of a health care provider to the patient to safeguard his information?
Answer: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) imposes substantial obligations on covered entities (certain providers and plans) to protect the privacy and security of a patient’s information.
HIPAA provides that the obligation of covered entities to safeguard this information remain in effect for a time period of fifty (50) years after a patient dies. This is a departure of the previous rule that HIPAA obligations survive indefinitely and this change was enacted in the final regulations in 2013. Accordingly, a patient’s private health information may not be used or disclosed in any way prohibited by HIPAA during such time. If an authorization is needed, the authorization would need to be signed by the deceased person’s personal representative.
If under applicable state law, an executor or personal representative is appointed for a deceased individual or his or her estate, then that individual must be treated as a personal representative for purposes of information relevant to such personal representation.
Comment: Fifty years following a person’s death, his or her information is no longer subject to HIPAA and may be used by a covered entity for any purpose or disposed of, as the covered entity sees fit.
If you have any questions or would like more information please contact Steve Shane at: firstname.lastname@example.org | 301.575.0313.
ABOUT STEVE SHANE
Steve Shane provides strategic counseling to clients in need of estate administration, charitable giving and business continuity planning while minimizing estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax exposure. He offers legal guidance to clients on asset protection and the proper disposition of assets in accordance with the client’s objectives, while employing tax planning techniques such as the use of irrevocable trusts, life insurance planning, lifetime gifts and charitable trust. He is also experienced with drafting documents for business planning, the incorporation and application for exemption for Private Foundations and the administration of decedents’ estates.
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