The Health Insurance Portability
and Accountabi lity Act of 1996
(HIPAA) could be the most significant
federal health care reform in a generation.
Called “Kassebaum-Kennedy” after its sponsors,
former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS)
and Sen. EdwardM. Kennedy (D-MA), the act
creates the first national standards for the
availability and portability of group and individual
health insurance coverage, relies on the
states as well as the federal government to
enforce those standards, begins the development
of federal policy for the electronic transfer
of medical information, provides tax incentives
to purchase long-term care insurance,
increases the tax deductibility of health insurance ...view middle of the document...
It does not increase access to health insurance
for persons who are currently uninsured, nor
does it give small businesses greater ability to
join together to strengthen their purchasing
power. Moreover, it does not make insurance
more affordable by regulating the rates insurers
and health plans can charge the insured.
And it establishes a controversial experiment
with medical savings accounts (MSAs).
HIPAA does respond to major issues underlying
the profound discontent that Americans
have felt about their health care coverage.
ERISA, for example, prohibited the states
fromregulating the health insurance of almost
60 percent of U.S. workers, those whose employers
chose to self-insure. As a result, every
state’s insurance commissioner and many legislators
often heard anguished stories from
persons they could not help, even though
forty-seven states regulate commercial and
Blue Cross insurance. Some were persons
whose employers self-insured and whose coverage
was terminated when they or members
of their families became seriously ill. Others
could not continue coverage when they lost
jobs or changed employers. Many feared
changing jobs because they risked losing coverage
for themselves and their dependents.
HIPAA addresses concerns beyond the selfinsured
sector. Many self-employed persons
could not afford premiums for health insurance
without an income tax exclusion that was comparable
to what other employees enjoyed. Individuals
and employees who wanted...