Wisconsin Consumerís Guide to Health Information Privacy
The HIPAA Collaborative Of Wisconsin (COW) has created an
easy-to-read guide for consumers to health information privacy. It takes
into account both HIPAA and state laws. Printable
version (PDF, 182 KB)
By now you may have heard or read about a new health
information privacy law that went into effect on April 14, 2003. This
new law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA),
requires health insurers and providers to handle your health information
with more care. However, long before HIPAA, Wisconsin laws required
health care providers and insurers to keep your health information
If you have health insurance coverage or have received
care from a physician, dentist, chiropractor, health care facility, or
other health care provider, you should have received a document
explaining the insurer or providerís privacy practices. This document
is known as the Notice of Privacy Practices.
The Notice of Privacy Practices is an excellent resource
for health information privacy questions. However, the Notice of Privacy Practices may not
provide clear answers to a consumerís most pressing questions. This
brochure tries to answer questions frequently asked by consumers and
their advocates about health information privacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have the right to inspect and
copy my health information?
Yes. With a few exceptions, you have the right to inspect and obtain a
copy of your health information that is in the possession of your health
care provider and health insurance company.
How do I get a copy of my health
By contacting the organization and requesting a copy of your health
information. Or, you may be asked to make your request in writing or
complete and sign an authorization for disclosure of protected health
Do I have to pay for a copy of my
Maybe. Wisconsin law and HIPAA allow organizations to charge a
reasonable fee for copies of your health information. Talk with the
organization about their policy on charging for copies.
Does my employer have a right to
my health information?
Generally no, unless your employer acts as your insurance company or if
you have filed a worker's compensation claim against your employer.
However, even if your employer acts as your insurance company, the
employer must keep that information separate from your employment
records and may not use your health information for employment-related
What if I file a claim for workerís
Wisconsin law offers no privacy protection for employees who file for
workerís compensation. Employees filing a workersí compensation
claim waive all provider-patient privilege of information or results
regarding any condition or complaint reasonably related to the condition
for which they are claiming compensation.
Is a hospital billing department or
insurance company prevented from answering questions from my advocate
who is working on my behalf to help pay my medical bills?
According to Wisconsin law, a written authorization is necessary in
order for your health care provider to discuss basic information with
your advocate, such as name, billing information, and dates of service.
Some health care providers or health insurance companies use their
professional judgment in discussing billing information to assist in
getting your medical bills paid. If your advocate wishes to discuss
issues beyond a particular medical bill, you should sign an
authorization form that allows your provider or insurance company to
talk freely to your advocate. Some providers and insurance companies may
have copies of their authorization forms on their websites.
Can my provider discuss my
condition, treatment, and outlook with my family and friends without my
According to Wisconsin law, a patientís authorization is necessary in
order for your health care provider to have such conversations with your
family and friends. In an emergency situation, and in the absence of
patient authorization, providers may use their professional judgment in
determining whether to contact or share information with family members
or friends involved in your care.
Can emergency health care workers
ask questions about a patient, without the patientís permission, such
as the patientís name, health and treatment status in emergency
Yes. Emergency health care workers can access a patientís health
information while providing medical treatment.
If I find errors in my health
record, can I correct those errors?
You can at least ask. If you believe your health information is
incorrect, you may ask your provider or health insurance company to
correct the information. You may be asked to make such requests in
writing and to give a reason as to why your health information should be changed. However, if your provider or
health insurance company did not create the health information that you
believe is incorrect, or if they disagree with you and believe your
health information is correct, they may deny your request as long as
they explain why.
May I request restrictions on how
my health information is used?
Yes. You have the right to ask for restrictions on how your health
information is used or to whom your information is disclosed, even if
the restriction affects your treatment or payment for services. You may
limit the health information provided to family or friends involved in
your care or payment of medical bills. You may also limit the health
information provided to authorities involved with disaster relief
efforts. However, your provider is not required to agree to your
requested restriction if he or she feels that the request is
unreasonable or cannot be accommodated.
May I receive confidential
communication of my health information?
Yes. You may ask to have your health information communicated to you in
different ways or places, as long as the request is reasonable. For
example, you may wish to receive information about your health status in
a special, private room or through a written letter sent to a private address.
May I receive a record of
disclosures of my health information?
Under Wisconsin and federal law your provider must keep track of most
disclosures of your health information. You have a right to ask for a
list of these disclosures. This list must include the date of each
disclosure, who received the disclosed health information, a brief
description of the health information disclosed, and why the disclosure
was made. Your provider or insurer must comply with your request for a
list within 60 days, unless you agree to a 30-day extension. Your
provider or insurer may not charge you for the list, unless you request
such list more than once per year.
What may I do if I believe my
health information privacy rights have been violated?
You may contact the privacy officer at your health care provider or
health insurance company or the federal Department of Health and Human
Services Office of Civil Rights. Consult the Notice of Privacy Practices
for specific contact information. Wisconsin law permits you to sue a
health care provider for Wisconsin privacy law violations. If you
believe your rights have been violated, consult an attorney to help
determine your best options.
If this brochure does not answer a question you may have
about your health care information, please contact your provider or
health insurance company. HIPAA requires each health care provider,
including physicians, dentists, chiropractors, hospitals, clinics, home
health agencies and nursing homes, to respond to any questions you may
have about your health care information.
The information on this web page does not constitute
legal advice. Please contact an attorney if you need legal advice.
Last updated: July 12, 2010