By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

HIPPA legacy drives our privacy paranoia

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I hate HIPPA — or, at least part of it.

Exactly eight years ago in this space, I wrote about my aggravation with The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which took full effect in 2003. That aggravation has grown, particularly as privacy paranoia ushered in by HIPPA spread to other fields.

I have to admit, HIPPA did some good things. For example, it protects workers from losing health insurance and prevents discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But it also twisted a limited need for privacy protections into policies that unnecessarily raise anxiety levels in families and caregivers.

Quoting from my 2006 column: “I’ve had insurance companies refuse to send me copies of paperwork about medical services to members of my immediate family; I’ve had to maintain files of permission forms and produce regular copies so that caregivers could get access to basic information needed to provide services to family members; I’ve been told that I needed formal power of attorney because mere permission wasn’t good enough.”

Since then, I suppose I’ve learned to live with HIPPA in the health care world, but not with its ridiculous extension to other areas of our lives.

Last year, I called the natural gas company to ask about an inconsistency in my mother’s gas bill. Sorry, the representative told me, you’re not authorized to receive sensitive information about the natural gas usage in your mother’s home; you will have to submit power-of-attorney documents before they could discuss that delicate, personal information.

Give me a break. Needless to say, I wasn’t a profile in politeness the remainder of that phone call.

Our newspaper stopped publishing baby announcements because the hospital is afraid of liability from releasing that information; we’ve been asked by law enforcement to stop identifying locations of local crimes because people are afraid of retaliation from cronies of the criminals; government representatives are saying that confidentiality for “personal information” now extends to the names of public officials.

Yes, I hate HIPPA for furthering a growing compulsion for privacy in government and commerce. And I hate the mentality that makes people afraid to announce the birth of babies while they ignore the greater threats to personal privacy from the Internet, Facebook and cellular phone apps.

Most of all, I hate having to play paperwork patty cake just to get a straight answer about family utility bills.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.

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