William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, announced today that all military medical facilities have implemented the privacy rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. With a directed start date of April 14, 2003, the new rule creates standard safeguards to protect the privacy and confidentiality of personal health care information.
Winkenwerder points out that, "The Military Health System has always had privacy standards in place to limit unauthorized access and disclosure of personal health information; this new rule heightens awareness, raises the level of oversight and provides a standard set of guidelines to protect the privacy of all patients."
As required by the new rule, DoD has mailed approximately five million military health system (MTF) notices of privacy practices (NoPP). The notices have gone to every beneficiary enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).
The new privacy legislation requires that health information be disclosed only for treatment, payment, and some health care operations such as scheduling appointments and billing patients. Health information will not be shared with outside sources for marketing, research or any other purpose without the beneficiary's written consent.
Each MTF has an assigned, trained privacy officer available to respond to any questions or concerns that beneficiaries may have regarding the new privacy rules. The privacy officers also serve as patient advocates ensuring that personal health information maintained by the MTF remains protected yet accessible to beneficiaries and their providers.
A copy of the MHS NoPP is available on the Tricare Web site for sponsors and family members to download; copies are also available for distribution at each DoD MTF. Additional information on HIPAA, Tricare and the new privacy standards is available on the Tricare Web site at http://www.tricare.osd.mil/hipaa.