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Patricia O'Connell
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Kirk Nahra Discusses HIPAA Rules and Health Privacy
February 12, 2014

Kirk J. Nahra, chair of Wiley Rein’s Privacy Practice and co-chair of the Health Care Practice, was quoted in a article today about a recent controversy involving employer access to workers’ health care information.

Last week, AOL chief executive officer Tim Armstrong called out two employees for raising the benefit costs of the company, calling their newborns “distressed babies” who had required expensive medical care.  Often times, employers gain knowledge of high-cost medical treatments through reports sent to them by benefits administrators.  Administrators pass along the claims information to human resources or benefits finance departments in quarterly or annual reports.  It is not uncommon for the information to be passed along to a chief executive or chief financial officer. noted that issues can derive from the fact that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)—a law that safeguards patient medical records—does not govern employers but rather the health plans they run.  It’s unclear whether Mr. Armstrong knew the identities of the two employees.

"The rules prohibit firing or adverse job actions" based on medical data, Mr. Nahra told   "That's not administering the health plan."

Click here to read the article.