This Notice of Privacy Practices becomes effective on April 14, 2003.
This Notice of Privacy Practices describes how protected health information may be used or disclosed by BEST Life and Health Insurance Company (BEST Life) to carry out treatment, payment, health care operations, and for other purposes that are permitted or required by law. This Notice also sets out our legal obligations concerning your protected health information, and describes your rights to access and control your protected health information. This Notice may refer to BEST Life by using the terms us, we or our.
Protected health information (or “PHI”) is individually identifiable health information, including demographic information, collected from you or created or received by a health care provider, a health plan, your employer (only when functioning on behalf of the group health plan), or a health care clearinghouse and that relates to: (i) your past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition; (ii) the provision of health care to you; or (iii) the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to you.
This Notice of Privacy Practices has been drafted to be consistent with what is known as the “HIPAA Privacy Rule,” and any of the terms not defined in this Notice should have the same meaning as they have in the HIPAA Privacy Rule. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
We are dedicated to maintaining the privacy of your identifiable health information. In conducting our business, we will create records regarding you and the services we provide to you. We are required by law to maintain the privacy of your protected health information. We are obligated to provide you with a copy of this Notice of our legal duties and of our privacy practices with respect to protected health information, and we must abide by the terms of this Notice. We reserve the right to change the provisions of our Notice and make the new provisions effective for all PHI that we maintain. If we make a material change to our Notice, we will mail or e-mail a revised Notice to the address that we have on record for you. E-mail will be used only if we offer delivery by e-mail and only if you agree to such delivery.
Primary Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information
The following is a description of how we are most likely to use and/or disclose your protected health information.
• Payment and Health Care Operations
We have the right to use and disclose your protected health information for all activities that are included within the definitions of “payment” and “health care operations” as set out in 45 C.F.R. § 164.501 (this provision is a part of the HIPAA Privacy Rule). We have not listed in this Notice all of the activities included within these definitions, so please refer to 45 C.F.R. § 164.501 for a complete list.
We will use or disclose your PHI to pay claims for services provided to you or to otherwise fulfill our responsibilities for coverage and providing benefits. For example, we may disclose your protected health information when a provider requests information regarding your eligibility for coverage under your health plan, or we may use your information to determine if your insurance coverage will pay for the services or treatment you received.
• Health Care Operations
We will use or disclose your protected health information to support our business functions. These functions include, but are not limited to: quality assessment and improvement, reviewing provider performance, licensing, underwriting, business planning, and business development. We may use or disclose your protected health information: (i) to provide you with information about one of our disease management programs; (ii) to respond to a customer service inquiry from you; or (iii) in connection with fraud and abuse detection and compliance programs.
In various instances we may disclose PHI to individuals who may assist in your care or are otherwise involved in your treatment such as physicians, therapists, centers of excellence and in some cases, spouses, children and parents.
• Business Associates
We contract with individuals and entities (Business Associates) to perform various functions on our behalf or to provide certain types of services. To perform these functions or to provide the services, our Business Associates will receive, create, maintain, use, or disclose protected health information, but only after we require the Business Associates to agree in writing to contract terms designed to appropriately safeguard your information. For example, we may disclose your protected health information to a Business Associate to administer claims or to provide service support, utilization management, subrogation, or pharmacy benefit management. Examples of our business associates would be a third party administrator, the sales broker or agent, the retail pharmacy; the mail order pharmacy, PPO networks, reinsurers, and actuaries.
• Other Covered Entities
We may use or disclose your protected health information to assist health care providers in connection with their treatment or payment activities, or to assist other covered entities in connection with payment activities and certain health care operations. For example, we may disclose your protected health information to a health care provider when needed by the provider to render treatment to you, and we may disclose protected health information to another covered entity to conduct health care operations in the areas of quality assurance and improvement activities, or accreditation, certification, licensing or credentialing. This also means that we may disclose or share your protected health information with other insurance carriers in order to coordinate benefits, if you or your family members have coverage through another carrier.
• Plan Sponsor
We may disclose your protected health information to the plan sponsor of your group health plan for purposes of plan administration or pursuant to an authorization request signed by you.
Potential Impact of State Law
The HIPAA Privacy Regulations generally do not “preempt” (or take precedence over) state privacy or other applicable laws that provide individuals greater privacy protections. As a result, to the extent state law applies, the privacy laws of a particular state, or other federal laws, rather than the HIPAA Privacy Regulations, might impose a privacy standard under which we will be required to operate. For example, where such laws have been enacted, we will follow more stringent state privacy laws that relate to uses and disclosures of protected health information concerning HIV or AIDS, mental health, substance abuse/chemical dependency, genetic testing, reproductive rights, etc.
Other Possible Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information
The following is a description of other possible ways in which we may (and are permitted to) use and/or disclose your protected health information.
• Required by Law
We may use or disclose your protected health information to the extent that federal law requires the use or disclosure. When used in this Notice, “required by law” is defined as it is in the HIPAA Privacy Rule. For example, we may disclose your protected health information when required by national security laws or public health disclosure laws.
• Public Health Activities
We may use or disclose your protected health information for public health activities that are permitted or required by law. For example, we may use or disclose information for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability, or we may disclose such information to a public health authority authorized to receive reports of child abuse or neglect. We also may disclose protected health information, if directed by a public health authority, to a foreign government agency that is collaborating with the public health authority.
• Health Oversight Activities
We may disclose your protected health information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law, such as: audits; investigations; inspections; licensure or disciplinary actions; or civil, administrative, or criminal proceedings or actions. Oversight agencies seeking this information include government agencies that oversee: (i) the health care system; (ii) government benefit programs; (iii) other government regulatory programs; and (iv) compliance with civil rights laws.
• Abuse or Neglect
We may disclose your protected health information to a government authority that is authorized by law to receive reports of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence. Additionally, as required by law, we may disclose to a governmental entity authorized to receive such information your protected health information if we believe that you have been a victim of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.
• Legal Proceedings
We may disclose your protected health information: (1) in the course of any judicial or administrative proceeding; (2) in response to an order of a court or administrative tribunal (to the extent such disclosure is expressly authorized); and (3) in response to a subpoena, a discovery request, or other lawful process, once we have met all administrative requirements of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. For example, we may disclose your protected health information in response to a subpoena for such information, but only after we first meet certain conditions required by the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
• Law Enforcement
Under certain conditions, we also may disclose your protected health information to law enforcement officials. For example, some of the reasons for such a disclosure may include, but not be limited to: (1) it is required by law or some other legal process; (2) it is necessary to locate or identify a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person; and (3) it is necessary to provide evidence of a crime that occurred on our premises.
• Coroners, Medical Examiners, Funeral Directors, and Organ Donation
We may disclose protected health information to a coroner or medical examiner for purposes of identifying a deceased person, determining a cause of death, or for the coroner or medical examiner to perform other duties authorized by law. We also may disclose, as authorized by law, information to funeral directors so that they may carry out their duties. Further, we may disclose protected health information to organizations that handle organ, eye, or tissue donation and transplantation.
We may disclose your protected health information to researchers when an institutional review board or privacy board has: (1) reviewed the research proposal and established protocols to ensure the privacy of the information; and (2) approved the research.
• To Prevent a Serious Threat to Health or Safety
Consistent with applicable federal and state laws, we may disclose your protected health information if we believe that the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public. We also may disclose protected health information if it is necessary for law enforcement authorities to identify or apprehend an individual.
• Military Activity and National Security, Protective Services
Under certain conditions, we may disclose your protected health information if you are, or were, Armed Forces personnel for activities deemed necessary by appropriate military command authorities. If you are a member of foreign military service, we may disclose, in certain circumstances, your information to the foreign military authority. We also may disclose your protected health information to authorized federal officials for conducting national security and intelligence activities, and for the protection of the President, other authorized persons, or heads of state.
If you are an inmate of a correctional institution, we may disclose your protected health information to the correctional institution or to a law enforcement official for: (1) the institution to provide health care to you; (2) your health and safety and the health and safety of others; or (3) the safety and security of the correctional institution.
• Workers’ Compensation
We may disclose your protected health information to comply with workers’ compensation laws and other similar programs that provide benefits for work-related injuries or illnesses.
• Others Involved in Your Health Care
Using our best judgment, we may make your protected health information known to a family member, other relative, close personal friend or other personal representative that you identify. Such a use will be based on how involved the person is in your care, or payment that relates to your care. We may release information to parents or guardians, if allowed by law. We also may disclose your information to an entity assisting in a disaster relief effort so that your family can be notified about your condition, status, and location. If you are not present or able to agree to these disclosures of your protected health information, then, using our professional judgment, we may determine whether the disclosure is in your best interest.
Required Disclosures of Your Protected Health Information
The following is a description of disclosures that we are required by law to make.
• Disclosures to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
We are required to disclose your protected health information to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services when the Secretary is investigating or determining our compliance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
Disclosures to You
We are required to disclose to you most of your protected health information in a “designated record set” when you request access to this information. Generally, a “designated records set”’ contains medical and billing records, as well as other records that are used to make decisions about your health care benefits. We also are required to provide, upon your request, an accounting of most disclosures of your protected health information that are for reasons other than treatment, payment and health care operations and are not disclosed through a signed authorization.
We will disclose your protected health information to an individual who has been designated by you as your personal representative and who has qualified for such designation in accordance with relevant state law. However, before we will disclose protected health information to such a person, you must submit a written notice of his/her designation, along with the documentation that supports his/her qualification (such as a power of attorney).
Even if you designate a personal representative, the HIPAA Privacy Rule permits us to elect not to treat the person as your personal representative if we have a reasonable belief that: (i) you have been, or may be, subjected to domestic violence, abuse, or neglect by such person; (ii) treating such person as your personal representative could endanger you; or (iii) we determine, in the exercise of our professional judgment, that it is not in your best interest to treat the person as your personal representative.
Other Uses and Disclosures of Your Protected Health Information
Other uses and disclosures of your protected health information that are not described above will be made only with your written authorization. If you provide us with such an authorization, you may revoke the authorization in writing, and this revocation will be effective for future uses and disclosures of protected health information. However, the revocation will not be effective for information that we already have used or disclosed, relying on the authorization.
The following is a description of your rights with respect to your protected health information.
• Right to Request a Restriction
You have the right to request a restriction on the protected health information we use or disclose about you for payment or health care operations. We are not required to agree to any restriction that you may request. If we do agree to the restriction, we will comply with the restriction unless the information is needed to provide emergency treatment to you.
To request a restriction you must make your request in writing and tell us: (1) the information whose disclosure you want to limit; and (2) how you want to limit our use and/or disclosure of the information.
• Right to Request Confidential Communications
If you believe that a disclosure of all or part of your protected health information may endanger you, you may request that we communicate with you regarding your information in an alternative manner or at an alternative location. For example, you may ask that we only contact you at your work address or via your work e-mail.
To request confidential communications, you must make your request in writing and specify how or where you wish to be contacted. We will accommodate all reasonable requests. Once we receive all of the information for such a request (along with the instructions for handling future communications), the request will be processed usually within five business days.
Prior to receiving the information necessary for this request, or during the time it takes to process it, protected health information may be disclosed (such as through an Explanation of Benefits, “EOB”). Therefore, it is extremely important that you contact us as soon as you determine that you need to restrict disclosures of your protected health information. If you terminate your request for confidential communications, the restriction will be removed for all your protected health information that we hold, including protected health information that was previously protected. Therefore, you should not terminate a request for confidential communications if you remain concerned that disclosure of your protected health information will endanger you.
• Right to Inspect and Copy
You have the right to inspect and copy your protected health information that is contained in a “designated record set.” Generally, a “designated record set” contains medical and billing records, as well as other records that are used to make decisions about your health care benefits. However, you may not inspect or copy psychotherapy notes or certain other information that may be contained in a designated record set.
To inspect and copy your protected health information that is contained in a designated record set, you must submit your request in writing. If you request a copy of the information, we may charge a fee for the costs of copying, mailing, or other supplies associated with your request.
We may deny your request to inspect and copy your protected health information in certain limited circumstances. If you are denied access to your information, you may request that the denial be reviewed. To request a review, you must contact us in writing at the address on the back of this brochure. A licensed health care professional chosen by us will review your request and the denial. The person performing this review will not be the same one who denied your initial request. Under certain conditions, our denial will not be reviewable. If this event occurs, we will inform you in our denial that the decision is not reviewable.
• Right to Amend
If you believe that your protected health information is incorrect or incomplete, you may request that we amend your information. Any request to amend your information must be writing. In certain cases, we may deny your request for an amendment. For example, we may deny your request if the information you want to amend is not maintained by us, but by another entity. If we deny your request you have the right to file a statement of disagreement with us. Your statement of disagreement will be linked with the disputed information and all future disclosures of the disputed information will include your statement.
• Right to an Accounting
You have a right to an accounting of certain disclosures of your protected health information that are for reasons other than treatment, payment, or health care operations. No accounting of disclosures is required for disclosures made pursuant to a signed authorization by you or your personal representative. You should know that most disclosures of protected health information will be for purposes of treatment, payment or health care operations, and, therefore, will not be subject to your right to an accounting. There also are other exceptions to this right.
An accounting will include the date(s) of the disclosure, to whom we made the disclosure, a brief description of the information disclosed, and the purpose for the disclosure. A request for an accounting must be made in writing. Your request may be for disclosures made up to 6 years before the date of your request, but not for disclosures made before April 14, 2003. The first list you request within a 12-month period will be free. For additional lists, we may charge you for the costs of providing the list. We will notify you of the cost involved and you may choose to withdraw or modify your request at the time before any costs are incurred.
• Right to a Paper Copy of This Notice
You have the right to a paper copy of this Notice, even if you have agreed to accept this Notice electronically.
You may complain to us if you believe that we have violated your privacy rights. You may file a complaint with us by contacting BEST Life Privacy Officer at 17701 Mitchell North, Irvine, CA 92614-6028 or by telephoning him or her at (949) 253-4080. A copy of a complaint form is available from this contact office. You also may file a complaint with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Complaints filed directly with the Secretary must: (1) be in writing; (2) contain the name of the entity against which the complaint is lodged; (3) describe the relevant problems; and (4) be filed within 180 days of the time you became or should have become aware of the problem. We will not penalize or in any other way retaliate against you for filing a complaint with the Secretary or with us.