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Is Your Workers’ Compensation Insurer Compelled to Release Your Full Medical History to Your Employer?

March 14, 2018 |

At some point in the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim, you are likely to come across a form indicating that you give the workers’ compensation insurance company the right to request information from your medical history. This may give you pause, either because you are concerned about your privacy in general or because there may be something in your medical records that you would prefer that your employer not know about. Unfortunately, with only a few exceptions, the employer does have the right to access these records.

A federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, exists specifically to protect your privacy. You are probably at least vaguely familiar with HIPAA, as you need to sign a HIPAA authorization nearly every time you submit to any kind of medical treatment or procedure. Though HIPAA does place restrictions on how medical records can be distributed, there is a specific exemption for these restrictions when it comes to workers’ compensation-related requests. This is because in the course of investigating a workers’ compensation claim, the insurance companies need to be able to ascertain whether an injury or illness truly resulted from the workplace or whether it might have been related to a preexisting condition. In this case, the workers’ rights to privacy do not triumph.

By contrast, there are other laws, specifically the Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Act and the Comprehensive Alcohol and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act, which protect workers from the release of information. It should also be noted that though the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows health information to be disclosed in workers’ compensation cases, its language specifies that health care facilities are “reasonably to limit the amount of protected health information disclosed… to the minimum necessary to accomplish the workers’ compensation purpose.”

Though it may feel like an invasion of privacy to know that the insurance company hired by your employer can access your medical history and can review every injury or illness you’ve been treated for in the past, those companies are also restricted in the information that they can release. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you to protect your rights and work to make sure that your personal information’s access is only to further you’re getting the compensation you deserve. Call us today to set up an appointment to discuss this and other issues further.