HIPAAWhen it comes to HIPAA, even dead people must be afforded privacy, according to a recent appellate court decision.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month in Opis Management Resources LLC v. Secretary Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, that federal rules supersede a Florida statute governing access to health records.

The case involved a group of nursing home operators that argued that Florida Statue § 400.145 was preempted by HIPAA.  That statute allows healthcare organizations to release deceased residents’ medical records in nursing homes to specified individuals. At issue was whether that law is consistent with HIPAA, as well as determining just who those “specified individuals” are.

The case grew out of requests from spouses and attorneys for medical records of deceased nursing home residents. The facilities refused to release the records because those requesting them were not “personal representatives” under the relevant provisions of HIPAA.

The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the nursing facilities finding that the Florida law provided nursing home residents less protection than required under HIPAA.

The appellate court noted: “Florida statute stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of HIPAA in keeping an individual’s protected health information strictly confidential.”

Click here to read the circuit court ruling.