Sunday, June 30, 2002

HIPAA is not going away, so get ready

Q. Are you HIPAA'd out?

A. Many of my clients have realized that time is going by faster than they expected and most of them have not even started preparing for HIPAA. So what is the big hubaloo all about?

CMS will be accepting requests for time extensions to be compliant with the transaction and code set parts of HIPAA to give providers additional time to bring their electronic functions into compliance. However, the compliance aspects of HIPAA do not fall within this extension and CMS, along with other governmental agencies, expects all covered entities to be privacy compliant by April 2003 (for smaller entities by April 2004). The time extension allows smaller entities until October 2003 to have their transaction requirements met.

So let's be honest: Does HIPAA really affect DME providers? It's Bad news for those who have not even started thinking about HIPAA, but the answer is, "Yes!" HIPAA will affect anyone in the healthcare industry, including HMEs and their patients. HIPAA, in part, started out as a way to increase security when handling private healthcare information and to bring the healthcare carriers and payers into the 21st century.

What should you do to prepare? Read what you can about HIPAA requirements. CMS has great, easy to understand information on its Web site. Most of the regional carriers have added HIPAA sections to their Web sites and have up-to-date information about requirements and links to sample compliance plans from the OIG.

If all that fails, you can do what 98% of the American public does: Wait until you are forced to implement something with the government looking over your shoulder. All joking aside, HIPAA is not going away nor is it getting less involved, so buckle down now and it could just save you time and money later. I would highly recommend that you start now. Implement a compliance program and talk to your software vendors to see where they are in relation to the HIPAA requirements for electronic submission standards.

Erica Rochelle is a v.p. of compliance with the KMT Group. Reach her at (803) 254-3995.