Are Prayer Lists Illegal?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Article summary. Some pastors are expressing concern about a new federal law that prohibits churches from listing the names of hospitalized members in church bulletins or on church "prayer lists." This article will review the law in question, and explain its application to pastors and churches.
In 1996 Congress enacted the massive Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in order to improve "portability" and continuity of health insurance coverage; to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in health insurance; to promote the use of medical savings accounts; to improve access to long-term care; and to simplify the administration of health insurance. In order to simplify the administration of health insurance, HIPAA included "Administrative Simplification" provisions that required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt national standards for electronic health care transactions. At the same time, Congress recognized that advances in electronic technology could erode the privacy of health information. As a result, Congress incorporated into HIPAA mandatory federal privacy protections.