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Federal law prohibits others from sharing medical information about patients with COVID-19

Local News

MCALLEN — In the era of social media, information can be leaked at the touch of a keyboard. 

With coronavirus on everyone’s lips, health care professionals say you shouldn’t be talking about anyone’s medical information. 

There’s a law that prevents just that and it’s called HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. 

“HIPAA is a very strict law and the minimum fine for violating HIPAA is 50,000 per incident and the maximum is 250,000 per incident,” said Carlos Sanchez, Public Information Officer for Hidalgo County. 

HIPAA is aimed at protecting your medical records from being leaked. 

“The main goal is to keep your information from getting in the hands of big businesses that or be online where people know all about your health information and have access to your medical records,” said Dr. Frank Glatz, a local infectious disease specialist. 

Health experts explain this is why limited information is being released about people with COVID-19. 

“In general we wouldn’t want to tell anything about anyone, even if it was a horrible infectious disease, unless it would endanger the lives of other people, I as a doctor would be bound to not share that information,” said Dr. Glatz. 

If a person is at work and contracted a viral disease, the employer does have the right to inform anyone that person came in contact with.

“Only the people that need to know will know,” said Dr. Glatz. 

County officials say in the age of social media they realize it’s easy to post medical information online, but warn against it. 

“The people should reconsider if they are sharing and posting information, particularly health information about others in the community,” said Sanchez. 

If you believe a business of medical profession has violated HIPAA, you can file a complaint here. https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/filing-a-complaint/index.html

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