HIPAA for Psychologists Privacy Rule Course FAQ

by State Advocacy Staff

Q: What Is the HIPAA for Psychologists Privacy Rule Course?

 

A: "HIPAA for Psychologists" is a comprehensive course for psychologists to facilitate compliance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. It is a compliance tool that has been developed specifically for practicing psychologists.

In addition to providing four hours of APA-approved CE credit, HIPAA for Psychologists includes:

  • The necessary state-specific forms that comply with both the Privacy Rule and relevant state law

  • All of the policies, procedures and other documents needed to comply with the Privacy Rule

Practitioners who pass the CE test can also receive a 5 percent premium discount on Trust-sponsored Professional Liability Insurance.

HIPAA for Psychologists is accessible by members and nonmembers online. A copy of the course will also be available on CD for an additional charge to those who have purchased the online course. The CD is, in effect, a more limited version of the online course. The CD will allow practitioners to use HIPAA for Psychologists when they are not connected to the Internet; however it does not contain all of the features included in the online version such as note taking, progress tracking and the CE test. Practitioners will have to be connected to the Internet if they want to take the CE test or receive updates should HIPAA information change.

Q: How Can I Purchase the HIPAA for Psychologists Privacy Rule Course?

A: HIPAA for Psychologists can be purchased online.

Q: How Much Does the HIPAA for Psychologists Privacy Rule Course Cost?

A: HIPAA for Psychologists is being offered at prices well below most HIPAA resources in the marketplace.

  • APA members who have paid the 2011 Practice Assessment or psychologists insured under the Trust-sponsored Professional Liability Insurance Program will be able to purchase "HIPAA for Psychologists" at an early discount price of $225.

  • Other APA members can purchase it at an early discount price of $375.

  • Psychologists and others who do not belong to APA will be charged the full retail, early discount price of $600.

Q: Why Isn’t the Price Included in the Practice Assessment?

A: The Practice Assessment, paid by licensed psychologists who provide health and mental health services, supports an extensive range of ongoing, existing advocacy activities that benefit all practitioners. The APA Practice Organization and Directorate carry out these activities in the areas of legislative advocacy, legal and regulatory strategies, marketplace activities and public education.

Developing the HIPAA compliance course to meet the needs of practitioners necessitated substantial investments in technology as well as legal time to complete detailed and thorough legal and regulatory preemption analyses in every state. The commitment required for these activities far exceeds the resources generated through the Practice Assessment.

Q: Why is the Practice Assessment so Important?

A: The Practice Assessment makes it possible for the APA Practice Organization to protect, defend and enhance the professional practice of psychology. This advocacy for the profession has protected the doctoral standard for psychology and has enabled practicing psychologists to bill Medicare, to use the new CPT codes when billing for health and behavior interventions with patients who do not carry mental diagnoses, and to begin gaining prescriptive authority, to name just a few benefits.

As an added benefit, all Practice Assessment payers now receive access to the new online resource for practicing psychologists, Practice Central. The goal of Practice Central is to provide useful, practice-oriented information and resources in one convenient online location.

Q: What if I Don’t Want to Purchase HIPAA for Psychologists?

A: Purchasing HIPAA for Psychologists is entirely voluntary. Practitioners may choose to purchase other available products or to conduct their own state preemption analyses and create their own forms, policies and procedures. Whatever option practitioners choose to take, the most important thing is that they become compliant by the deadline.

Q: Is the APA Practice Organization Aware That This Is a Difficult Time for Practitioners Financially?

A: The APA Practice Organization is keenly aware of the financial pressures facing practitioners and continually works to find ways to increase the value of psychological services among the public. The immediate oversight body of the Practice Organization, the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice (CAPP), is composed of working practitioners who are dedicated to stretching every available dollar to achieve maximum results on behalf of practitioners. Despite a series of staffing and budget cuts, the APA Practice Organization remains committed to doing more than ever before to advocate daily on behalf of practicing psychologists with Congress and federal agencies, in the courts, with the media and the public.

Q: What Is the Purpose of the HIPAA Privacy Rule?

A: The HIPAA Privacy Rule, a regulation promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, establishes a minimum level of privacy protection for health care information. The Privacy Rule establishes a patient’s rights regarding the use and disclosure of his/her health care information. It focuses on the application of effective policies, procedures and business service agreements to control the access and use of patient information. The Privacy Rule applies to health care providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouses.

Q: Will the HIPAA Privacy Rule Apply to My Practice?

A: We have received a number of inquiries from psychologists who want to know if the HIPAA Privacy Rule will apply to them. In the long run we believe that all psychologists providing health care services will be subject to the Rule. We also believe that it is both wise and prudent to prepare to become HIPAA compliant before the deadline for the following reasons:

  • Insurance and managed care companies are rapidly moving from paper to electronic online transactions for payment and all health care operations.

  • Circumstances could arise where the need for compliance is triggered by actions over which you may have no control (e.g., a billing service that you use may electronically transmit information about your patient to a third party payer). If this occurs, your entire practice must become HIPAA compliant immediately. After the deadline, there will be no grace period for compliance.

  • If you bill any third-party source (e.g., HMO, PPO, Medicare) you will undoubtedly fall under the HIPAA regulations.

  • The only possible exception to this advice would be the very few psychologists who are on a total cash basis, have no interface at any time, now or in the future, with any insurance carrier, hospital, managed care company, state or federal program, or other third-party payer that currently or in the future may require some form of electronic transaction.

Q: Am I Exempt If I Do Not Use Electronic Transmissions?

A: You may be exempt currently if you do not submit claims electronically or participate in any third-part payment plans. However, it is unlikely you will be able to avoid all electronic transactions in the future and remain exempt, especially if you or a business associate working on your behalf transacts any health care business electronically (e.g. billing or payment for services, authorization for treatment, utilization review, and verification of coverage, etc.). That is why we recommend that psychologists who provide health care services become HIPAA ready prior to the deadline.

Q: How Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule Impact Current Laws in My State?

A: This is one of the most important issues that must be addressed in order to comply with HIPAA regulations and your states’ laws. The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes minimum provisions for the use and disclosure of health care information. If your state laws are more protective than the minimum required by HIPAA, then the state law will take priority over the HIPAA standard. If the state law is less protective, the HIPAA provision will prevail. To comply with HIPAA, it is necessary to compare all laws related to health care delivery in your state with the HIPAA regulations. A decision must then be made regarding which regulation or statute provides the greatest level of protection of health care information from the patient’s perspective. The completed analysis is then made part of the required “Notice Form” to be given to patients.

Q: Does Each State Require Its Own State-specific Notice Form?

A: No. It is HIPAA’s requirement, not the states’. The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires that covered health care providers provide their patients with a “Notice Form.” The Notice Form describes patients’ rights related to the use and disclosure of their health care information. The information in the form must comply with either the HIPAA requirements or the state statutes, depending on which regulation or statute provides patients with the greatest level of protection of their health care information. Given that the HIPAA regulations are highly technical and voluminous, and there are hundreds of health care provisions in each state, this will be a daunting task for psychologists. It would be very difficult for anyone without legal training or extensive knowledge of the law to develop the required Notice Form.

Q: How Can I Obtain the Information and State-specific Forms Needed to Comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule?

A: You basically have four alternatives: (1) review and compare the HIPAA regulations and your state laws and create your own forms; (2) hire an attorney to do the same work; (3) purchase HIPAA for Psychologists, which has been developed by the APA Practice Organization and the APA Insurance Trust; or (4) purchase another of the products on the market that may not have been tailored specifically for psychologists.