Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act


HIPAA was enacted by Congress to ensure health care coverage and privacy for patients.
HIPAA was enacted by Congress to ensure health care coverage and privacy for patients.
Sean Justice/Getty Images

Congress enacted the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, in 1996 to help ensure both health coverage and privacy for patients. The need for privacy was realized when more and more health information was being recorded and exchanged electronically. Before HIPAA, there were very few laws in place to help retain a patient's privacy when their medical records were recorded on a computer rather than in the once-standard paper chart.

HIPAA is divided into two main titles:

  • Title I works with group and individual health insurance plans to ensure availability to you.
  • Title II lists health care system rules and penalties but is most well known for its "Administrative Simplification" rules.

These rules are drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services and are used to help make the exchange of your electronic health information safe and efficient throughout the nation's health care system.

In this article, we'll find out more about each of these titles. First, we'll start with Title I.


More to Explore