- What Is HIPAA?
- HIPAA, pre-existing condition exclusions, and creditable coverage
- HIPAA, your health history, and health insurance coverage
- Making benefits claims
- HIPAA and certain policy provisions
- Information sharing
- Who enforces HIPAA?
- Getting and keeping health insurance coverage under HIPAA
- Glossary of terms
- To learn more
HIPAA, your health history, and health insurance coverage
Under HIPAA, can I lose or be charged more for coverage if my health changes? I have been treated for cancer.
Group health plans and issuers may not set up rules for one person’s eligibility (including continued eligibility) to enroll under the terms of the plan based on “health status-related factors.” These factors include your health status, medical conditions (physical or mental), past medical claims, receipt of health care, medical history, genetic information, and evidence of insurability or disability. For example, you cannot be excluded or dropped from coverage under your group health plan just because you develop cancer.
Also, group plans and issuers may not require a person to pay a premium or contribution that’s greater than that for a similarly situated person based on a health status-related factor. On the other hand, if the employer raised everyone’s rates or completely stopped offering health coverage, it would not violate HIPAA.
Can a group health plan or group health insurance issuer require me to pass a physical exam to be eligible to enroll in the plan? I have some side effects from the cancer treatment that may take a long time to go away.
No. A group health plan or group health insurance issuer may not make you pass a physical exam for enrollment. Even if you’re a late enrollee, you cannot be required to pass a physical exam to be eligible for coverage.
My group health plan requires that I complete a detailed health history questionnaire and subtracts Health Points for prior or current health conditions. In order to enroll in the plan, I must score 70 out of 100 total points. I scored only 50 points and was denied eligibility in the plan. Is this allowed?
No. But the HIPAA non-discrimination provisions do not automatically forbid health care questionnaires. It depends on how the information on them is used. In this case, the plan requires people to score a certain number of Health Points that are related to current medical conditions in order to enroll in the plan. This is not allowed and is considered discrimination in rules for eligibility based on a health factor.
My group health plan has a 12-month pre-existing condition exclusion period but, after the first 6 months, the exclusion period is dropped for people who have not had any claims since enrollment. Is this allowed under HIPAA?
No. A group health plan may impose a pre-existing condition exclusion period, but the exclusion must be applied in the same way to all similarly situated people. Here, the plan’s provisions do not apply uniformly because people who have medical claims in the first 6 months after enrollment are not treated the same as similarly situated people with no claims during that time. This means the plan provision violates the HIPAA non-discrimination provisions.
My group health plan excludes coverage for benefits for a health condition that I have (no matter whether it pre-existed or not). Is my plan violating HIPAA’s non-discrimination provisions by imposing this exclusion?
Group health plans may decide not to cover a certain disease. They may limit or exclude benefits for certain types of treatments or drugs, or limit or exclude benefits based on their decision of whether the benefits are experimental or medically needed. But they can only do this if the benefit restriction is applied uniformly to all people in similar situations and is not directed at anyone in the plan based on a health factor. So, if the same standard applies to everyone in the group, it may be allowed. An example might be coverage of a treatment that has not been scientifically proven.
My health plan has a $500,000 lifetime limit on all benefits covered under the plan. The plan also has a $5,000 annual limit on all benefits provided for one of my health conditions. Are these limits allowed under HIPAA?
HIPAA no longer governs these issues, but the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010 does. Lifetime limits in health plans issued or renewed on or after September 23, 2010 are not allowed.
The ACA is also phasing out the use of annual dollar limits over a 3-year period until 2014 when it bans them for most plans. These limits apply to all employer plans and all new individual market plans. You’ll need to check your plan materials to find out when your health insurance plan was last issued or renewed to find out if it is “grandfathered” and whether these rules apply to it:
- Plans issued or renewed beginning September 23, 2010 have not been allowed to set annual limits lower than $750,000.
- The minimum annual limit was $1.25 million for plans that started on or after September 23, 2011.
- The minimum annual limit was $2 million for plans that started on or after September 23, 2012.
- For plans issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2014, annual dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits are not allowed.
If you have an individual health plan that was set up before January 2014, limits might be allowed because the plan is grandfathered. Check with your state Insurance Commissioner’s office. But starting in 2014, you may find that you can get comparable coverage without these limits in your state’s health insurance marketplace.
I like to sky-dive. Can I be excluded from enrolling in my employer’s health plan because I sky-dive?
No. You may not be denied eligibility to enroll in your employer’s plan because you sky-dive. But sky-diving injuries might not be covered under your health plan. See below.
Can my health plan or issuer deny benefits for an injury based on the source of that injury? When my mother developed cancer, I became very depressed and I took an overdose of sleeping pills.
If the injury results from a medical condition or an act of domestic violence, the health plan or issuer may not deny benefits for the injury, as long as it’s an injury the plan would otherwise cover.
For example, a plan may not exclude coverage for self-inflicted injuries (or injuries resulting from attempted suicide) for a person in the plan if the injuries are otherwise covered by the plan and if the injuries are the result of a medical condition, such as depression.
But a plan or issuer is not required to cover injuries that do not result from a medical condition or domestic violence. This means that injuries sustained in high-risk activities, such as bungee jumping, sky-diving, or whitewater rafting may not be covered.
Still, the plan could not exclude people from enrollment in the plan because of their high-risk hobby. And it would still cover treatment for other medical conditions that were not related to the high-risk activity. Check with your insurance plan about their coverage of injuries.
I have a history of high claims. As a person with cancer, I’ve had 3 different types of treatment and many medicines. Can I be charged more than similarly situated individuals based on my claims?
No. Group health plans and group health insurance issuers cannot charge one person more for coverage than a similarly situated person based on any health factor.
Last Medical Review: 09/16/2013
Last Revised: 09/16/2013