HIPAA Privacy Notice

On April 14, 2003, a new segment of the federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) went into effect. The new regulations describe how medical information about you may be used and disclosed, and under what circumstances it is classified as protected information. The attached privacy notice is required for PCC to distribute to you. You will also be receiving a privacy notice from any insurance carriers who have access to your medical information.

There is one particular change required by HIPAA that may impact our ability to serve you when you or your spouse/domestic partner contacts the Human Resources Benefits staff. Under HIPAA, protected health information (PHI) may be disclosed to an individual's spouse, domestic partner, or family member only if written authorization (not email) is provided in advance by that individual. In addition, the caller will be asked certain information to help verify the identity of the caller. For example, if the spouse of an employee calls to seek help resolving a claim issue, the benefits staff will be able to share information regarding insurance eligibility. However, they will not be able to discuss health data, financial information, or the claim itself without written authorization from the employee. Depending on the information requested, the caller may be asked to submit a signed authorization form, or may be referred to the customer service number for the insurance carrier.

This is a change from the way that PCC has provided service in the past, but it is necessary for compliance with HIPAA, which was enacted to ensure the privacy of your health information. Please contact the benefits staff if you have any questions.

PCC Privacy Notice

This notice describes how medical information about you may be used and disclosed and how you can get access to this information. Please review it carefully.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) imposes numerous requirements on employer health plans concerning the use and disclosure of individual health information. This information, known as protected health information, includes virtually all individually identifiable health information held by the Plan – whether received in writing, in electronic medium, or as an oral communication. This notice describes the privacy practices of the following plans: the Portland Community College Flexible Spending Plan and the Portland Community College Employee Assistance Plan. The plans covered by this notice may share health information with the College to carry out Treatment, Payment, or Health Care Operations. These plans are collectively referred to as the Plan in this notice, unless specified otherwise.

The Plan’s duties with respect to health information about you

The Plan is required by law to maintain the privacy of your health information and to provide you with this notice or the Plan’s legal duties and privacy practices with respect to your health information. If you participate in an insured plan option such as Kaiser or BlueCross medical plans, you will receive a notice directly from the Insurer. It’s important to note that these rules apply to the Plan, not Portland Community College as an employer – that’s the way the HIPAA rules work. Different policies may apply to other Portland Community College programs or to data unrelated to the health plan.

How the Plan may use or disclosure your health information

The privacy rules generally allow the use and disclosure of your health information without your permission (known as an authorization) for purposes of health care Treatment, Payment activities, and Health Care Operations. Here are some examples of what that might entail:

  • Treatment includes providing, coordinating, or managing health care by one (1) or more health care providers or doctors. Treatment can also include coordination or management of care between a provider and a third party, and consultation and referrals between providers. For example, the plan may share health information about you with physicians who are treating you.
  • Payment includes activities by this Plan, other plans, or providers to obtain premiums, make coverage determinations and provide reimbursement for health care. This can include eligibility determinations, reviewing services for medical necessity or appropriateness, utilization management activities, claims management, and billing; as well as “behind the scenes” plan functions such as risk adjustment collection, or reinsurance. For example, the Plan may share information about your coverage or the expenses you have incurred with another health plan in order to coordinate payment of benefits.
  • Health care operations include activities by this Plan (and in limited circumstances other plans or providers) such as wellness and risk assessment programs, quality assessment and improvement activities, customer service, and internal grievance resolution. Health care operations also include vendor evaluations, credentialing, training, accreditation activities, underwriting, premium rating, arranging for medical review and audit activities, and business planning and development. For example, the Plan may use information about your claims to review the effectiveness of wellness programs.

The amount of health information used or disclosed will be limited to the “minimum necessary” for these purposes, as defined under the HIPAA rules. The Plan may also contact you to provide appointment reminders or information about treatment alternatives or other health-related benefits and services that may be of interest to you.

How the Plan may share your health information with Portland Community College

The Plan, or its health insurer or HMO, may disclose your health information without your written authorization to Portland Community College for plan administration purposes. Portland Community College may need your health information to administer benefits under the Plan. Portland Community College agrees not to use or disclose your health information other than as permitted or required by the Plan documents and by law. Benefits/Human Resources staff and Payroll/Finance staff are the only Portland Community College employees who will have access to your health information for plan administration functions.

Here’s how additional information may be shared between the Plan and Portland Community College, as allowed under the HIPAA rules:

  • The Plan, or its Insurer or HMO, may disclose “summary health information” to Portland Community College if requested, for purposes of obtaining premium bids to provide coverage under the Plan, or for modifying, amending, or terminating the Plan. Summary health information is information that summarizes participants’ claims information, but from which names and other identifying information
  • The Plan, or its Insurer or HMO, may disclose to Portland Community College information on whether an individual is participating in the Plan, or has enrolled or disenrolled in an insurance option or HMO offered by the Plan.

In addition, you should know that Portland Community College cannot and will not use health information obtained from the Plan for any employment-related actions. However, health information collected by Portland Community College from other sources, for example under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, or workers’ compensation is not protected under HIPAA (although this type of information may be protected under other federal or state laws).

Other allowable uses or disclosures of your health information

In certain cases, your health information can be disclosed without authorization to a family member, close friend, or other person you identify who is involved in your care or payment for your care. Information describing your location, general condition, or death may be provided to a similar person (or to a public or private entity authorized to assist in disaster relief efforts). You’ll generally be given the chance to agree or object to these disclosures (although exceptions may be made, for example if you’re not present or if you’re incapacitated). In addition, your health information may be disclosed without authorization to your legal representative.

The Plan also is allowed to use or disclose your health information without your written authorization for the following activities:

Workers’ Compensation Disclosures to workers’ compensation or similar legal programs that provide benefits for work-related injuries or illness without regard to fault, as authorized by and necessary to comply with such laws.
Necessary to prevent serious threat to health or safety Disclosures made in the good-faith belief that releasing your health information is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to public or personal health or safety, if made to someone reasonably able to prevent or lessen the threat (including disclosures to the target of the threat); includes disclosures to assist law enforcement officials in identifying or apprehending an individual because the individual has made a statement admitting participation in a violent crime that the Plan reasonably believes may have caused serious physical harm to a victim, or where it appears the individual has escaped from prison or from lawful custody.
Public health activities Disclosures authorized by law to persons who may be at risk of contracting or spreading a disease or condition; disclosures to public health authorities to prevent or control disease or report child abuse or neglect; and disclosures to the Food and Drug Administration to collect or report adverse events or product defects.
Victims of abuse, neglect or domestic violence Disclosures to government authorities, including social services or protected services agencies authorized by law to receive reports of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, as required by law or if you agree or the Plan believes that disclosure is necessary to prevent serious harm to you or potential victims (you’ll be notified of the Plan’s disclosure if informing you won’t put you at further risk).
Judicial and administrative proceedings Disclosures in response to a court or administrative order, subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful process (the Plan may be required to notify you of the request, or receive satisfactory assurance from the party seeking your health information that efforts were made to notify you or obtain a qualified protective order concerning the information).
Law enforcement purposes Disclosures to law enforcement officials required by law or pursuant to legal process, or to identify a suspect, fugitive, witness, or missing person; disclosures about a crime victim if you agree or if disclosure is necessary for immediate law enforcement activity; disclosure about a death that may have resulted from criminal conduct; and disclosure to provide evidence of criminal conduct on the Plan’s premises.
Decedents Disclosures to a coroner or medical examiner to identify the deceased or determine cause of death; and to funeral directors to carry out their duties.
Organ, eye, or tissue donation Disclosures to organ procurement organizations or other entities to facilitate organ, eye, or tissue donation and transplantation after death.
Research purposes Disclosures subject to approval by institutional or private privacy review boards, and subject to certain assurances and representations by researchers regarding necessity of using your health information and of the treatment of the information during a research project.
Health oversight activities Disclosures to health agencies for activities authorized by law (audits, inspections, investigations, or licensing actions) for oversight of the health care system, government benefits programs for which health information is relevant to beneficiary eligibility, and compliance with regulatory programs or civil rights laws.
Specialized government functions Disclosures about individuals who are Armed Forces personnel or foreign military personnel under appropriate military command; disclosures to authorized federal officials for national security or intelligence activities; and disclosures to correctional facilities or custodial law enforcement officials about inmates.
HHS investigations Disclosures of your health information to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate or determine the Plan’s compliance with the HIPAA privacy rule.

Except as described in this notice, other uses and disclosures will be made only with your written authorization. You may revoke your authorization as allowed under the HIPAA rules. However, you can’t revoke your authorization if the Plan has taken action relying on it. In other words, you can’t revoke your authorization with respect to disclosures the Plan has already made.

Your individual rights

You have the following rights with respect to your health information the Plan maintains. These rights are subject to certain limitations as discussed below. This section of the notice describes how you may exercise each individual right. See the table at the end of this notice for information on how to submit requests.

Right to request restrictions on certain uses and disclosures of your health information and the Plan’s right to refuse

You have the right to ask the Plan to restrict the use and disclosure of your health information for Treatment, Payment, or Health Care Operations, except for uses or disclosures required by law. You have the right to ask the Plan to restrict the use and disclosure of your health information to family members, close friends, or other persons you identify as being involved in your care or payment for your care. You also have the right to ask the Plan to restrict use and disclosure of health information to notify those persons of your location, general condition, or death – or to coordinate those efforts with entities assisting in disaster relief efforts. If you want to exercise this right, your request to the Plan must be in writing.

The Plan is not required to agree to a requested restriction. If the Plan does agree, a restriction may later be terminated by your written request, by agreement between you and the Plan (including an oral agreement), or unilaterally by the Plan for health information created or received after you’ve been notified that the Plan has removed restrictions. The Plan may also disclose health information about you if you need emergency treatment, even if the Plan has agreed to a restriction.

Right to receive confidential communications of your health information

If you think that disclosure of your health information by the usual means could endanger you in some way, the Plan will accommodate reasonable requests to receive communications of health information from the Plan by alternative means or at alternative locations.

If you want to exercise this right, your request to the Plan must be in writing and you must include a statement that disclosure of all or part of the information could endanger you.

Right to inspect and copy your health information

With certain exceptions, you have the right to inspect or obtain a copy of your health information in a “Designated Record Set.” This may include medical and billing records maintained for a health care provider; enrollment, payment, claims adjudication, and case or medical management record systems maintained by a plan; or a group of records the Plan uses to make decisions about individuals. However, you do not have a right to inspect or obtain copies of psychotherapy notes or information compiled for civil, criminal, or administrative proceedings. In addition, the Plan may deny your right to access, although in certain circumstances you may request a review of the denial.

If you want to exercise this right, your request to the Plan must be in writing. Within 30 days of receipt of your request (60 days if the health information is not accessible onsite), the Plan will provide you with one of the following:

  • The access or copies you requested;
  • A written denial that explains why your request was denied and any rights you may have to have the denial reviewed or file a complaint; or
  • A written statement that the time period for reviewing you request will be extended for no more than 30 more days, along with the reasons for the delay and the date by which the Plan expects to address your request.

The Plan may provide you with a summary or explanation of the information instead of access to or copies of your health information, if you agree in advance and pay any applicable fees. The Plan also may charge reasonable fees for copies or postage.

If the Plan doesn’t maintain the health information but knows where it is maintained, you will be informed of where to direct your request.

Right to amend your health information that is inaccurate or incomplete

With certain exceptions, you have a right to request that the Plan amend your health information in a Designated Record Set. The Plan may deny your request for a number of reasons. For example, your request may be denied if the health information is accurate and complete, was not created by the Plan (unless the person or entity that created the information is no longer available), is not part of the Designated Record Set, or is not available for inspection (e.g., psychotherapy notes or information compiled for civil, criminal, or administrative proceedings).

If you want to exercise this right, your request to the Plan must be in writing, and you must include a statement to support the requested amendment. Within 60 days of receipt of you request, the Plan will provide you with one of the following:

  • Make the amendment as requested;
  • A written denial that explains why your request was denied and any rights you may have to disagree or file a complaint; or
  • A written statement that the time period for reviewing your request will be extended for no more than 30 more days, along with the reasons for the delay and the date by which the Plan expects to address your request.

Right to receive an accounting of disclosures of your health information

You have the right to a list of certain disclosures the Plan has made of your health information. This is often referred to as an “accounting of disclosures.” You generally may receive an accounting of disclosures if the disclosure is required by law, in connection with certain public health activities, or in similar situations listed in the table earlier in this notice, unless otherwise indicated below.

You may receive information on disclosures of your health information going back for six (6) years from the date of your request, but not earlier than April 14, 2003 (the general date that the HIPAA privacy rules are effective). You do not have a right to receive an accounting of any disclosures made:

  • For Treatment, Payment, or Health Care Operations;
  • To you about your own health information;
  • Incidental to other permitted or required disclosures;
  • Where authorization was provided;
  • To family members or friends involved in your care (where disclosure is permitted without authorization);
  • For national security or intelligence purposes or to correctional institutions or law enforcement officials in certain circumstances; or
  • As part of a “limited data set” (health information that excludes certain identifying information).

In addition, your right to an accounting of disclosures to a health oversight agency or law enforcement official may be suspended at the request of the agency or official. If you want to exercise this right, your request to the Plan must be in writing. Within 60 days of the request, the Plan will provide you with the list of disclosures or a written statement that the time period for providing this list will be extended for no more than 30 more days, along with the reasons for the delay and the date by which the Plan expects to address your request. You may make one (1) request in any 12 month period at no cost to you, but the Plan may charge a fee for subsequent requests. You’ll be notified of the fee in advance and have the opportunity to change or revoke your request. You have the right to obtain a paper copy of this Privacy notice upon request. Even individuals who agreed to receive this notice electronically may request a paper copy at any time.

Changes to the information in this notice

The Plan must abide by the terms of the Privacy Notice currently in effect. This notice takes effect on 4/14/03. However, the Plan reserves the right to change the terms of its privacy policies as described in this notice at any time, and to make new provisions effective for all health information that the Plan maintains. This includes health information that was previously created or received, not just the information created or received after the policy changed. If changes are made to the Plan’s privacy policies described in this notice, you will be advised by email of the newly revised Privacy Notice posted on the Human Resources intranet website.

Complaints

If you believe your privacy rights have been violated, you may complain to the Plan and to the Secretary of Health and Human Services. You won’t be retaliated against for filing a complaint. To file a complaint, send an email or written description of the incident you wish to file a complaint about to the Compensation and Benefits Manager at Portland Community College. If the complaint concerns violations by an insured plan, you will be directed to file the complaint directly with them.

Contact

For more information on the Plan’s privacy policies, or your rights under HIPAA, contact Ann Baynton, Compensation and Benefits Manager at 971-722-5872.

Additional Contacts

The following is a list of key offices you may need to contact to exercise your rights under the HIPAA privacy rule for different benefit plans offered by Portland Community College:

BlueCross Medical Plan Regence BlueCross BlueShield 503-225-6400
Kaiser Medical Plan Kaiser Permanente 503-813-2000
Long Term Care Plan Continental Casualty Company 1-800-528-4582
Flexible Spending Plan Portland Community College 971-722-5872
Employee Assistance Plan Cascade Centers, Inc. 1-800-433-2320