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NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES FOR PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION

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 Union College Group Health Plan (UCGHP) is required by law to take reasonable steps to ensure the privacy of your personally identifiable information and to inform you about:

  • UCGHP's uses and disclosures of Protected Health Information (PHI);
  • your privacy rights with respect to your PHI;
  • UCGHP's duties with respect to your PHI;
  • your right to file a complaint with the Plan and to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and
  • the person or office to contact for further information about UCGHP’s privacy practices.

The term "Protected Health Information" (PHI) includes all individually identifiable health information transmitted or maintained by the UCGHP, regardless of form (oral, written, electronic).

Section 1. Notice of PHI Uses and Disclosures

Required PHI Uses and Disclosures

Upon your request, UCGHP is required to give you access to certain PHI in order to inspect and copy it.
Use and disclosure of your PHI may be required by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate or determine UCGHP's compliance with the privacy regulations.

Uses and disclosures to carry out treatment, payment and health care operations

UCGHP and its business associates will use PHI without your consent, authorization, or opportunity to agree or object, to carry out treatment, payment and health care operations. UCGHP also will disclose PHI to Union College for purposes related to treatment, payment, and health care operations. Union College has amended its plan documents to protect your PHI as required by federal law.

Treatment is the provision, coordination or management of health care and related services. It also includes but is not limited to consultations and referrals between one or more of your providers.

For example, UCGHP may disclose to a treating orthodontist the name of your treating dentist so that the orthodontist may ask for your dental X-rays from the treating dentist.

Payment includes but is not limited to actions to make coverage determinations and payment (including billing, claims management, subrogation, plan reimbursement, reviews for medical necessity and appropriateness of care, utilization review and pre-authorizations).

For example, UCGHP may tell a doctor whether you are eligible for coverage or what percentage of the bill will be paid by UCGHP.

Health care operations include but are not limited to quality assessment and improvement, reviewing competence or qualifications of health care professionals, underwriting, premium rating and other insurance activities relating to creating or renewing insurance contracts. Health care operations also include disease management, case management, conducting or arranging for medical review, legal services and auditing functions including fraud and abuse compliance programs, business planning and development, business management and general administrative activities.

For example, UCGHP may use information about your claims to refer you to a disease management program, project future benefit costs or audit the accuracy of its claims processing functions.

Uses and disclosures that require your consent

If you decline to provide consent for the use of your PHI for treatment, payment and health care operations you will not be enrolled in UCGHP.

Uses and disclosures that require your written authorization

Your written authorization generally will be obtained before UCGHP will use or disclose psychotherapy notes about you from your psychotherapist. Psychotherapy notes are separately filed notes about your conversations with your mental health professional during a counseling session. They do not include summary information about your mental health treatment. UCGHP may use and disclose such notes when needed by UCGHP to defend against litigation filed by you.

Uses and disclosures that require that you be given an opportunity to agree or disagree prior to the use or release

Disclosure of your PHI to family members, other relatives and your close personal friends is allowed if:

  • the information is directly relevant to the family or friend's involvement with your care or payment for that care; and
  • you have either agreed to the disclosure or have been given an opportunity to object and have not objected.

Uses and disclosures for which consent authorization or opportunity to object is not required

Use and disclosure of your PHI is allowed without your consent, authorization or request under the following circumstances:

  1. When required by law.
  2. When permitted for purposes of public health activities, including when necessary to report product defects, to permit product recalls and to conduct post-marketing surveillance. PHI may also be used or disclosed if you have been exposed to a communicable disease or are at risk of spreading a disease or condition, if authorized by law.
  3. When authorized by law to report information about abuse, neglect or domestic violence to public authorities if there is a reasonable belief that you may be a victim of abuse, neglect or domestic violence. In such case, UCGHP will promptly inform you that such a disclosure has been or will be made unless that notice would cause a risk of serious harm. For the purpose of reporting child abuse or neglect, it is not necessary to inform the minor that such a disclosure has been or will be made. Disclosure may generally be made to the minor's parents or other representatives although there may be circumstances under federal or state law when the parents or other representatives may not be given access to the minor's PHI.
  4. UCGHP may disclose your PHI to a public health oversight agency for oversight activities authorized by law. This includes uses or disclosures in civil, administrative or criminal investigations; inspections; licensure or disciplinary actions (for example, to investigate complaints against providers); and other activities necessary for appropriate oversight of government benefit programs (for example, to investigate Medicare or Medicaid fraud).
  5. UCGHP may disclose your PHI when required for judicial or administrative proceedings. For example, your PHI may be disclosed in response to a subpoena or discovery request provided certain conditions are met. One of those conditions is that satisfactory assurances must be given to UCGHP that the requesting party has made a good faith attempt to provide written notice to you, and the notice provided sufficient information about the proceeding to permit you to raise an objection and no objections were raised or were resolved in favor of disclosure by the court or tribunal.
  6. When required for law enforcement purposes (for example, to report certain types of wounds).
  7. For law enforcement purposes, including for the purpose of identifying or locating a suspect, fugitive, material witness or missing person. Also, when disclosing information about an individual who is or is suspected to be a victim of a crime but only if the individual agrees to the disclosure or the covered entity is unable to obtain the individual's agreement because of emergency circumstances. Furthermore, the law enforcement official must represent that the information is not intended to be used against the individual, the immediate law enforcement activity would be materially and adversely affected by waiting to obtain the individual's agreement and disclosure is in the best interest of the individual as determined by the exercise of UCGHP's best judgment.
  8. When required to be given to a coroner or medical examiner for the purpose of identifying a deceased person, determining a cause of death or other duties as authorized by law. Also, disclosure is permitted to funeral directors, consistent with applicable law, as necessary to carry out their duties with respect to the decedent.
  9. UCGHP may use or disclose PHI for research, subject to conditions.
  10. When consistent with applicable law and standards of ethical conduct if UCGHP, in good faith, believes the use or disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public and the disclosure is to a person reasonably able to prevent or lessen the threat, including the target of the threat.
  11. When authorized by and to the extent necessary to comply with workers' compensation or other similar programs established by law.

Except as otherwise indicated in this notice, uses and disclosures will be made only with your written authorization subject to your right to revoke such authorization.

Section 2. Rights of Individuals

Right to Request Restrictions on PHI Uses and Disclosures

You may request UCGHP to restrict uses and disclosures of your PHI to carry out treatment, payment or health care operations, or to restrict uses and disclosures to family members, relatives, friends or other persons identified by you who are involved in your care or payment for your care. However, the Plan is not required to agree to your request.

UCGHP will accommodate reasonable requests to receive communications of PHI by alternative means or at alternative locations.

You or your personal representative will be required to complete a form to request restrictions on uses and disclosures of your PHI.

Such requests should be made to the following privacy officer: Chief Human Resources Officer, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308 and (518) 388-6108.

Right to Inspect and Copy PHI

You have a right to inspect and obtain a copy of your PHI contained in a "designated record set," for as long as UCGHP maintains the PHI.

"Protected Health Information" 

(PHI) includes all individually identifiable health information transmitted or maintained by UCGHP, regardless of form.

"Designated Record Set" includes the medical records and billing records about individuals maintained by or for a covered health care provider; enrollment, payment, billing, claims adjudication and case or medical management record systems maintained by or for a health plan; or other information used in whole or in part by or for the covered entity to make decisions about individuals. Information used for quality control or peer review analyses and not used to make decisions about individuals is not in the designated record set.

The requested information will be provided within 30 days if the information is maintained on site or within 60 days if the information is maintained offsite. A single 30-day extension is allowed if UCGHP is unable to comply with the deadline.

You or your personal representative will be required to complete a form to request access to the PHI in your designated record set. Requests for access to PHI should be made to the following privacy officer: Chief Human Resources Officer, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308 and telephone (518) 388-6108.

If access is denied, you or your personal representative will be provided with a written denial setting forth the basis for the denial, a description of how you may exercise those review rights and a description of how you may file a complaint with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Right to Amend PHI

You have the right to request UCGHP to amend your PHI or a record about you in a designated record set for as long as the PHI is maintained in the designated record set.

UCGHP has 60 days after the request is made to act on the request. A single 30-day extension is allowed if UCGHP is unable to comply with the deadline. If the request is denied in whole or part, UCGHP must provide you with a written denial that explains the basis for the denial. You or your personal representative may then submit a written statement disagreeing with the denial and have that statement included with any future disclosures of your PHI.

Requests for amendment of PHI in a designated record set should be made to the following privacy officer: Director of Human Resources, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308.

You or your personal representative will be required to complete a form to request amendment of the PHI in your designated record set.

The Right to Receive an Accounting of PHI Disclosures

At your request, UCGHP will also provide you with an accounting of disclosures by UCGHP of your PHI during the six years prior to the date of your request. However, such accounting need not include PHI disclosures made: (1) to carry out treatment, payment or health care operations; (2) to individuals about their own PHI; or (3) prior to the compliance date.

If the accounting cannot be provided within 60 days, an additional 30 days is allowed if the individual is given a written statement of the reasons for the delay and the date by which the accounting will be provided.

If you request more than one accounting within a 12-month period, UCGHP will charge a reasonable, cost-based fee for each subsequent accounting.

The Right to Receive a Paper Copy of This Notice Upon Request

To obtain a paper copy of this Notice contact the following privacy officer: Chief Human Resources Officer, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308.

A Note About Personal Representatives

You may exercise your rights through a personal representative. Your personal representative will be required to produce evidence of his/her authority to act on your behalf before that person will be given access to your PHI or allowed to take any action for you. Proof of such authority may take one of the following forms:

  • a power of attorney for health care purposes, notarized by a notary public;
  • a court order of appointment of the person as the conservator or guardian of the individual; or
  • an individual who is the parent of a minor child. UCGHP retains discretion to deny access to your PHI to a personal representative to provide protection to those vulnerable people who depend on others to exercise their rights under these rules and who may be subject to abuse or neglect. This also applies to personal representatives of minors.

Section 3. UCGHP's Duties

UCGHP is required by law to maintain the privacy of PHI and to provide individuals (participants and beneficiaries) with notice of its legal duties and privacy practices.

This notice is effective beginning April 14, 2004 and UCGHP is required to comply with the terms of this notice. However, UCGHP reserves the right to change its privacy practices and to apply the changes to any PHI received or maintained by UCGHP prior to that date. If a privacy practice is changed, a revised version of this notice will be provided to participants and beneficiaries for whom the UCGHP Plan still maintains PHI. Any revised version of this notice will be distributed within 60 days of the effective date of any material change to the uses or disclosures, the individual's rights, the duties of UCGHP or other privacy practices stated in this notice.

Minimum Necessary Standard

When using or disclosing PHI or when requesting PHI from another covered entity, UCGHP will make reasonable efforts not to use, disclose or request more than the minimum amount of PHI necessary to accomplish the intended purpose of the use, disclosure or request, taking into consideration practical and technological limitations.

However, the minimum necessary standard will not apply in the following situations:

  • disclosures to or requests by a health care provider for treatment;
  • uses or disclosures made to the individual;
  • disclosures made to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
  • uses or disclosures that are required by law; and
  • uses or disclosures that are required for UCGHP's compliance with legal regulations.

This notice does not apply to information that has been de-identified. De-identified information is information that does not identify an individual and with respect to which there is no reasonable basis to believe that the information can be used to identify an individual.

In addition, UCGHP may use or disclose "summary health information" to Union College for obtaining premium bids or modifying, amending or terminating UCGHP, which summarizes the claims history, claims expenses or type of claims experienced by individuals for whom Union College has provided health benefits under UCGHP; and from which identifying information has been deleted in accordance with HIPAA.

Section 4. Your Right to File a Complaint With UCGHP or the HHS Secretary

If you believe that your privacy rights have been violated, you may file a complaint to the UCGHP in care of the following privacy officer: Director of Human Resources, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308 and telephone (518) 388-6108. You may file a complaint with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201.

The Plan will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint.

Section 5. Whom to Contact at UCGHP for More Information

If you have any questions regarding this notice or the subjects addressed in it, you may contact the following privacy officer: Chief Human Resources Officer, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308 and telephone (518) 388-6108.

Conclusion

PHI use and disclosure by UCGHP is regulated by a federal law known as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). You may find these rules at 45 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 160 and 164. This notice attempts to summarize the regulations. The regulations will supersede any discrepancy between the information in this notice and the regulations.