The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as “HIPAA,” is the most significant development in U.S. health care in recent history.
Enacted by Congress on August 21, 1996, HIPAA’s initial purpose was to ensure and improve the continuity of health insurance coverage for workers changing jobs. To facilitate this objective however, HIPAA included “Administrative Simplification” provisions that mandated the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt national standards for the transmission and protection of health information. The resulting national standards are far-reaching in scope, causing HIPAA to affect nearly every aspect of the U.S. health care system.
In response to the HIPAA mandate, HHS adopted and published the following national standards for the transmission and protection of health information. These HIPAA standards are applicable to all health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers, which the HIPAA statute defines as covered entities.