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Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: What is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)?

Answer: HIPAA amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), to provide new rights and protections for participants and beneficiaries in group health plans.  Understanding this amendment is important to your decisions about future health coverage.  HIPAA contains protections both for health coverage offered in connection with employment ("group health plans") and for individual insurance policies sold by insurance companies ("individual policies").

If you find a new job that offers health coverage, or if you are eligible for coverage under a family member's employment-based plan, HIPAA includes protections for coverage under group health plansthat:

  • Limit exclusions for preexisting conditions
  • Prohibit discrimination against employees and dependents based on their health status
  • Allow a special opportunity to enroll in a new plan to individuals in certain circumstances

If you choose to apply for an individual policy for yourself or your family, HIPAA includes protections for individual policies that:

  • Guarantee access to individual policies for people who qualify
  • Guarantee renewability of individual policies



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