Memo on HIPAA Rights to Access Health Records Released by HHS
Leon Rodriguez, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Director of the Office of Civil Rights, issued a memo to consumers on May 13, 2012 regarding rights to access HHS’ protected health information and medical records. Stressed in the memo is the importance for consumers and providers to remember that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides consumers not just protection for personal health information, but also the right to view and obtain copies of health records.
When dealing with HIPAA compliance, many providers fail to recognize the patients’ right to access. In addiiton, they charge patients a reasonable amount for the copies of health records, and cost for mailing the records. However, it is noted that a provider cannot charge patients for searching and retrieving records, and they cannot withhold access to records because a patient has not paid for the requested services.
Annual Report Projects Healthcare Spending to Accelerate in 2014
According to a CMS annual report published online in Health Affairs, U.S. health spending is projected to grow, on average at 4% for 2011-2013, a little above the historically low rate of 3.8% in 2009. In 2011, growth in consumers’ use of health services remained slow as suggested in the preliminary data. This pattern is seen to continue in 2012-2013. However, health spending is expected to increase to 7.4% with the major coverage expansions from the Affordable Care Act beginning in 2014. On average, health spending is projected to grow at 5.7% annually for 2011-21.
Healthcare spending of federal, state and local government is projected to be near 50% of the country’s 2012 health expenditures, with federal spending making up about two-thirds of the total government share.
RAC Data Shows Many Overpayment Appeals Returned in the Provider’s Favor
Recovery Audit Program appeals data for fiscal year 2011 was released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) in June 2012. The report indicates that 43.3% of the claim denials appealed were returned in favor of providers. The claims, which totaled 903,372, were from overpayments. Of these, 56,620 were appealed by the provider in which 24,548 were returned in their favor.
It is shown in the data that automated claims were the common type of claims overturned on appeal, but far more money was overturned in complex claims. Almost $30 million in overpayments was overturned on appeal solely from complex claim denials.
House Subcommittee Questions CMS’ Audit Oversight
At a hearing last week, officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were questioned by the House Energy and Commerce Oversight Subcommittee about the agency’s oversight of its audit contractors. Rep. Cliff Steams (R-Fla.), Subcommittee chairman, and other committee members voiced out their concerns about CMS’ way of managing their contractors. In addition, representatives from the American Association for Homecare who attended the hearing said that the information on ZPIC performance data that CMS sent was incorrect.
According to AAHomecare, the burden that audits have placed on HME providers was a key concern to lawmakers on the subcommittee. Rep. Cathy Castor (D-Fla.) stated she will be submitting questions regarding ZPICS for CMS to answer because she had heard about the audit contractors from many stakeholders.
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