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Florida loses its court battle to override HIPAA requirements

May 6, 2013
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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U.S. Court of Appeals recently overruled Florida’s state law requiring nursing homes to furnish a copy of a former resident’s medical records to his or her “spouse, guardian, surrogate, proxy or attorney in fact.” It held that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) takes precedence over the state statute.

Under HIPAA, nursing homes and other covered categories may only disclose medical records to the patient or his/her personal representative, according to an article in the National Law Review. HIPAA has a narrower definition of “personal representative.” Only an “executor, administrator or other person who has authority under state law to act on the behalf of a deceased individual or of the individual’s estate.”

This issue came to light in the suit of Opis Management Resources, LLC v. Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Nursing homes were cited by AHCA for refusing to hand over records of deceased residents to those who did not meet HIPAA’s definition of personal representative. The nursing homes sought relief from the fines that AHCA levied against them.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule was amended earlier this year to allow the release of medical documents to a family member or others who may have been involved in care or payment of care if the information was applicable to their participation. AHCA believed that the amendments to HIPAA supported the Florida law. The U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed. It concluded that the Florida law obstructed HIPAA’s goal of limiting the flow of an individual’s personal health information.

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