It’s pretty common for people with workplace injury and an ongoing workers’ compensation claim to ask me about privacy rights. Especially when it comes to health information. Privacy of sensitive healthcare data such as medical history and treatment is important.
How does L&I or self-insured employers get my health records?
I usually tell people that while there are some rare exceptions, once you have a workers’ compensation claim or an L&I claim, you often become an open book. The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and self insurers need to administer your claim. To do so, they must access your healthcare records. Naturally, people wonder whether HIPPA protections apply in the workers’ compensation setting.
L&I recently issued a reminder that HIPPA allows providers to “disclose protected health information as authorized by and to the extent necessary to comply with laws relating to workers’ compensation” 45 CFR 164.512(l). Practically speaking, this means that when L&I or a self-insurer requests medical records under RCW 51.36.060, the provider must release all protected health info relevant to the workers’ compensation claim. Under RCW 51.28.070, L&I or the self-insured employer must keep information in the workers’ claim files confidential.
Attorneys versus workers’ compensation claim administrators
Ironically, workers’ compensation exemption under HIPPA applies to the release of records to L&I and self insurers, not to attorneys like me. Sometimes I need to obtain records. For this reason, I ask my clients to sign a HIPPA compliant release allowing me to access records and communicate with treatment providers.
After taking over the law firm of Casey and Casey, we discovered that many of the medical releases on file were outdated. They were not HIPPA compliant. Over the past several months my staff has been working hard to obtain updated releases for all clients. Thank you to my hard working staff and amazing clients for helping us make this process easy and efficient.