The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, both offer protection for health insurance consumers. We are going to briefly touch on these topics to inform you of their primary implications then direct you to more comprehensive resources for further investigation.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, became law on April 7, 1986. The Act deals with a variety of subjects, but the most significant from a healthcare consumer perspective is the requirement that certain employees have the option to continue their group health insurance coverage after termination of employment; however, employees are often required to pay the entire premium if they choose to extend coverage. The essential thing to know about COBRA is that it allows most individuals the option to keep their health insurance after they lose a job either voluntarily or involuntarily (other than for gross misconduct). For detailed information on COBRA, please visit the U.S. Department of Labor COBRA site.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, was enacted on August 21, 1996. In general, HIPAA provides the ability for workers and their families to transfer and continue health insurance coverage when they change or lose jobs (i.e. "portability"), reduces healthcare fraud and abuse, mandates national standards for electronic healthcare transactions, and perhaps most famously, requires the protection and confidential handling of Protected Health Information (PHI). The use and disclosure of PHI is regulated by the HIPAA Privacy Rule, a summary of which can be found here: HHS Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. For detailed information on HIPAA in general, please visit the HHS Health Information Privacy site.
COBRA allows most individuals the option to keep their health insurance after they lose a job either voluntarily or involuntarily. HIPAA's most well known provision protects the confidentiality of patient Protected Health Information (PHI). For detailed information on these Acts, see the links above or visit Health Insurance Resources.
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