For some people the problem with going to rehab is not the frightening set of “what ifs” that keep coming up in their mind. It is not the thought of the long and hard road ahead of them as they try to shake their addiction and to keep it at bay for the rest of their lives. The problem that they have is the gnawing fear that everyone is going to know what they had kept secret for so long. They fear that not only will friends and family learn the truth but so will employers, coworkers and others. They fear that they will be exposed and treated differently because they have an addiction, one that they are trying to face and to fight.
Privacy Laws to Protect You
Whether you pay out of pocket or with insurance, your health care is a private matter. Rehab centers are health care and these privacy laws will protect you. The most important one to know is the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. You may know it better by HIPAA. HIPAA prevents any of your health care information, records and diagnoses from being released without your consent which is given in writing. There are some exceptions to this part of the law involving payment and treatment. Written consent is not needed at that time.
Your privacy is protected though:
- When you submit treatment requests to your plan
- When you ask questions about your eligibility for coverage or other questions regarding your policy related to substance abuse treatment.
This policy covers all information including your length of stay, the location of the facility you are in and even the types of substance you are being treated for.
What About the Privacy of a Minor?
If the minor is the one getting substance abuse treatment then his privacy is protected the same as an adult. Any information about his treatment would be held privately and not disclosed to even his parents without his written consent. There is an exception to this rule, though. In states where the parents’ permission is needed for treatment of a minor then the written consent for release of information would need to be signed by the minor and the parents as well.
Giving and Revoking Your Consent
During your admission intake you will be signing a lot of papers including information about insurance and other forms. You may not be thinking clearly at that time. You may be emotionally drained and overwhelmed and may also be suffering the effects of the drugs in your system and/or withdrawal symptoms. You will be asked to give consent to get your previous medical records and other information and you will give that consent in writing.
If at any time you feel like you need to revoke your consent you can do so in by verbal statement. The facility may ask you to sign a form documenting this revocation of consent or they may simply document in their own notes that you made this statement. You can do this at any time even immediately after signing the consent form. You do not have to sign the consent for information transfers to be treated at the facility in most cases.
Reasonable Information Sharing
The information in your files is confidential to a point. There may be some information that is shared by people at the facility but everything that is shared will be information that is needed to adequately provide for your care and treatment. You can expect that certain parts of your progress will be discussed among others on the care team while other information may be kept entirely private. You have the right to know which information is being shared and with whom. You also have the reasonable right to the information that is in your files whenever you feel like you are ready to see it.
If You Feel Your Privacy was Violated
When you sign all of the forms you will be given a paper that spells out all of your rights under HIPAA and other privacy laws. It will also list the number to call if you feel that your information was shared in a way that was outside of your consent or if you did not consent at all and information was shared. The facility can be fined for a first or second offense but could lose their license if they have repeatedly breached this trust.
Exceptions to the Privacy Rules
There are exceptions to virtually every rule and law in the world. Your privacy is protected unless you commit a crime while in the rehab facility or are facing criminal charges prior to your entry to the facility. A court can subpoena all or some of the records pertaining to your stay in the facility especially in the case of suspected crimes against children.
A family court may also subpoena this information in the case of a child custody dispute especially if the other parent is alleging child abuse or neglect directly related to substance abuse problems. You may want to volunteer your rehab information so that you can show the court that you are trying to make the necessary changes in your life to be a better parent.
It can be a frightening thing signing in to a rehab center but it is important. Your privacy is a valid concern and you are protected under the law. You are not going to have anything broadcast to the general public and no one even needs to know where you are until you are ready to talk to them. Remember, you will need the support of loved ones when you get out and it might be easier to let them get the information in a more controlled environment.
If you or a loved one is ready to speak to someone about rehab it is important to reach out. We are here, around the clock and we are ready to help you with information, referrals and understanding. Call today at 866-754-9113.