| Mon, Jul 30, 2012 @ 09:00 AM

Keeping Your Medicare Health Information Safe and Sound

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

Medicare information safeYour Medicare health information is important. How is this information protected? What if someone else needs to get your information? The tips below can help you understand these and other key privacy issues. This can be valuable whether you’re a Medicare recipient or a caregiver.

Tip 1: A Helpful Handbook

Are you familiar with the Medicare & You handbook from Medicare.gov? This is a great place to get the official word on Medicare privacy practices. You’ll see what Medicare does to protect your health care information. You’ll also get the facts about those times when Medicare may release your personal health information without your authorization. Download your free copy of the Medicare & You handbook at Medicare.go. You can also visit the website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for more information about specific privacy policies, like web policies.

Tip 2: Authorizing Access for Others

What if you need get to someone else’s health care information, like a parent or spouse? Or what if you need to give someone else access to your information? The law says that Medicare needs your written permission (called an “authorization”) to use or give out your personal medical information. Be sure to check the privacy section of the Medicare & You handbook for exceptions to this rule. You can generally take back (or, “revoke”) this permission at any time.

To get the ball rolling, you can visit Medicare.gov. There, you’ll find a link to the Medicare Authorization to Disclose Personal Health Information Form. This is the form you need to fill out to let others see your personal health information. This is also the form you need if you need to get someone else’s information. For example, if you’re a caregiver for a parent or spouse. Clicking on the “Begin Form” button will lead you to the online form. The form has three steps and should take about 10 – 15 minutes to complete. When you’re done filling it out, you’ll see directions for mailing it. You can’t submit the form online or email it to Medicare. You have to send it by mail.

Note: If you need to get personal health information for someone who has passed away (a “deceased beneficiary”), you may need to do a bit more legwork. You’ll need to explain your relationship to the beneficiary. The most important thing you’ll need is a legal document telling Medicare that you have permission to ask for the health care information. Here are some examples:

  • Executor/Executrix papers

  • Letter of Testamentary or Administration with a court stamp and judge’s signature

  • Personal representative papers with a court stamp and judge and/or county clerk’s signature

Tip 3: Get Hip to HIPAA

You might have heard about HIPAA at your doctor or pharmacy. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This is a privacy rule that created national standards to protect your medical records and other personal health information. Your Medicare health information is protected under HIPAA. For a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HIPAA and Medicare, visit Medicare Privacy Practices (HIPAA) on Medicare.gov.

Tip 4: Your Plan’s Privacy Policy

All these resources can help you understand Medicare’s privacy practices. But what if you have a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Part D standalone prescription drug plan? For more information about how your plan protects your privacy:

  • Visit your plan’s website – Most insurance companies will post their privacy policies on their website. Generally, if you want to know about their online privacy practices, you can click on the link within the home page. This may be different than the privacy practices for your specific plan. To find this information, you will likely need to go to a page that specifically mentions your plan. You might also find this information if you have an online member account.

  • Look in your Explanation of Benefits – Your plan’s Explanation of Benefits (EOB) can be a paper document or may be posted online. The EOB will generally outline how your plan can use your personal health information, how it protects it, and other important information about your privacy.

To view the Privacy Policy for Medicare Made Clear™, click here.

Final Thoughts

The privacy of your Medicare health information is important. So is understanding your privacy rights and protections. This helps you be sure your health care information is safe and sound—and easy to get if you or your loved one need it.

For more information, contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048. If you have questions about Medicare Made Clear call 1-877-619-5582, TTY 711, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week.


Medicare.gov publication (PDF) Medicare & You

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): Web Policies & Important Links

MedicareMadeClear: Privacy Policy


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