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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 111600
Experience:  Attorney experienced in commercial litigation.
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My medical bills from my breast cancer were turned over to a

Customer Question

My medical bills from my breast cancer were turned over to a collection agency. Upon reviewing the documents sent to the courts by the collection agency, to file a lawsuit, the collection agency included documents that clearly state that I had a bilateral mastectomy. This protected health information is now part of a public docket, and information for anyone to view. Have my civil rights been violated under HIPAA and protected health information?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

Under HIPAA, healthcare insurers and healthcare providers are the entities that have to abide by HIPAA. The healthcare provider is not supposed to turn over your personal health information without your consent or for a valid medical reason, such as disclosing to the insurer for billing. The collection agency should not have received that information and for that you can sue the health provider who released the information. You have to sue under your state law for confidentiality of medical records, because HIPAA has no private right to sue and under HIPAA you must file a complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services, as they are the sole entity that has enforcement authority under HIPAA.

Furthermore, you need to file a "Motion to Strike or for Protective Order" which you would use to ask the court to remove that information about your medical condition or to seal the record so nobody can see the information.

You also can consider that if there is no way for you to afford paying these bills, to seek to file bankruptcy to have them extinguished, as bankruptcy is no longer what it used to be and it is not the stigma people used to attach to it. However, that is something you need to discuss with a local attorney who would need to review all of your assets and debts in person to make a proper decision on whether bankruptcy would work for you.

These are your options based on the information you provided above.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you; however I recently read that a collection agency is also bound under the same HIPPA medical privacy information as the provider under a business agreement they would have to have in place with the provider. I know someone who owns a collection agency and she told me a collection agency can not disclosure protected health information in the court documents. I was told that the actual diagnosis and surgery should have never been provided to the courts. Only name, SS#, demographics and payment history can be provided but not an actual medical diagnosis. The provider was not the one that sent the information to the courts, the collection agency did, which thereby my protection health information has now become public knowledge.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I am going to file a HIPAA complaint with the government against the collection agency for them to investigate the violation. Will the government let me know their findings?