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Costs Of Providing Healthcare Going Up

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The cost of operating public and private healthcare facilities is going up, again.

New Federal regulations – implemented by the former Clinton Administration – will increase burdens on the already financially strapped public health care system, and will most likely up patient costs at private facilities as well.

Reforms in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) are now beginning to be implemented nation-wide.

They affect all healthcare providers or firms that handle medical records, including Tuolumne General Hospital.

Tuolumne County Supervisors were offered a concise overview of the new reforms by County HIPPA Compliance Team members Gregg Jacobs, and Cynthia Paes.

The federal bill hopes to improve the portability and continuity of health insurance coverage for groups and individual, providing increased privacy and security of medical records, and combating waste, fraud and abuse in health insurance and health care delivery.

Assistant County Administrator Craig Pedro said the Federal reforms are considered un-funded mandates and compliance by the county is a must. “This is something that is broad and as permanent as worker’s comp, EEO, OSHA, or ADA,” he said, adding it´s going to require full time staffing by the county to administer, including hiring a county “Privacy Officer.”

The federal guidelines for the act are phased in over time, Tuolumne County Counsel Gregory Oliver told the board of Supervisors yesterday. All the guidelines for the HIPPA are not yet published or finalized.

The act will have a major financial impact on the county, mainly Tuolumne General Hospital. But, Oliver said, we´re not the only ones affected.

“When President Clinton signed the bill in August of 1996, I don´t think anybody realized exactly how much money it was going to cost in the long run,” Oliver said.

“But, when this is fully implemented under HIPPA, it´s going to be very expensive. Not just for Tuolumne County, but for every state in the nation and every county in the nation,” Oliver said.

The supervisors will revisit HIPPA project compliance at their October 15 meeting.