Workers unfamiliar with the workers’ compensation claim process may believe that their medical records will remain private when they make claims for benefits. This is not true – many other people besides the injured worker will have access to a considerable amount of private medical information.
Generally, a law called HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects Americans’ medical records from public view. Minnesota state law also prohibits medical providers and others with authorized access to medical records from sharing those records with the public. Under HIPAA and Minnesota law, only you, your health care providers, your health insurance company in some cases, and anyone you authorize can view and share your records.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim creates an exception to these restrictions. By filing a claim, you authorize your employer, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company, and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to view your records for purposes of the claim only. The exception gives many people access to the records, including the Human Resources department at your employer and the insurance company’s claims managers and adjusters.
The employer, insurer, and the state can view only the records directly related to your claim. In other words, they cannot request records relating to a childhood broken arm if your workers’ compensation claim is for burns sustained in an industrial accident. If, however, you have some pre-existing condition similar to the condition for which you made a claim, they may be able to access records relating to the pre-existing condition. For example, if you strained your back 10 years ago and today made a claim for a slipped disc, they potentially could gain access to the back strain records.
Again, only your employer, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer, and the state can gain access to these records without your express consent. The records do not become public record or available for public viewing just because you file a claim. To release the records to anyone else, your doctors need you to approve. If you have a workers’ compensation attorney, you may need to provide a written authorization to your doctor to allow your attorney to review medical records for your case.
The workers’ compensation exception to medical privacy should not prevent you from filing a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer cannot share your records to everyone and can only use them for assessing your claim for benefits. By engaging a workers’ compensation attorney, you gain an advocate who can take steps to ensure that your records stay as private as possible during the claims process.
Do you have questions about filing a workers’ compensation claim for a workplace injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.