The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a regulatory act in the United States that sets requirements for companies that store sensitive health data. It applies to hospitals, insurance companies, etc. as well as any companies that store health related data in HR systems (one example could be if an employee in a warehouse cannot lift above a certain weight).
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA or the Kennedy–Kassebaum Act) is a United States federal statute enacted by the 104th United States Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 21, 1996. It modernized the flow of healthcare information, stipulates how personally identifiable information maintained by the healthcare and healthcare insurance industries should be protected from fraud and theft, and addressed some limitations on healthcare insurance coverage. It generally prohibits healthcare providers and healthcare businesses, called covered entities, from disclosing protected information to anyone other than a patient and the patient's authorized representatives without their consent. With limited exceptions, it does not restrict patients from receiving information about themselves. It does not prohibit patients from voluntarily sharing their health information however they choose, nor – if they disclose medical information to family members, friends, or other individuals not a part of a covered entity – legally require anyone except covered healthcare entities to maintain confidentiality.
The act consists of five titles. Title I of HIPAA protects health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs. Title II of HIPAA, known as the Administrative Simplification (AS) provisions, requires the establishment of national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employers. Title III sets guidelines for pre-tax medical spending accounts, Title IV sets guidelines for group health plans, and Title V governs company-owned life insurance policies.