KENNEDY REQUESTS INFORMATION ON POSSIBLE PATIENTS’ RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education,Labor and Pensions Committee, sent the following letter to Secretary Michael Leavitt of theDepartment of Health and Human Services, requesting information pertaining to possibleviolations of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996 reported to theCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Below is the text of the letter.August 9, 2007Secretary Michael LeavittDepartment of Health and Human Services200 Independence Avenue, SWWashington, D.C. 20201
Dear Secretary Leavitt:I am writing to request information concerning complaints submitted to the Centers forMedicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) alleging violations of provisions of the HealthInsurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) that guarantee “portability” ofhealth insurance benefits. As you know, HIPAA guarantees individual health insurancecoverage for eligible individuals moving out of a group health insurance plan. Specifically,section 111 of HIPAA amends the Public Health Service Act to require (in the absence of astate-established “alternative mechanism,” such as a high-risk pool) insurance carriers to offereligible individuals “at least one ‘policy form’ comparable to either comprehensive coverage inthe state’s individual health insurance market or standard coverage under the state’s grouporindividual-market laws.” GAO Report “’Alternative Mechanisms’ Under HIPAA,” May 20,1998, GAO/HEHS-98-161R.Implementing regulations charge CMS with collecting, maintaining, and addressing complaintsof HIPAA violations—including violations of the so-called “group-to-individual portability”requirement described above. As part of my oversight responsibilities, I request that CMSprovide to my office all complaints it has received over the past year involving allegations thatthe HIPAA provision discussed above has been violated, including complaints that insurancecarriers have inappropriately delayed processing applications for individual insurance coveragefor eligible individuals. I ask that you coordinate the production of documents with SandraGallardo or Nicholas Bath, Counsel to the Committee, at (202) 224-3112.
With respect and appreciation,Sincerely,Edward M. KennedyChairman
Laura Burton Capps/ Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633