HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, created in 1996. The HIPAA law regulates and protects patient health records and information. According to HIPAA, a patient’s information must be properly stored, secured and destroyed. If a patient’s information is no longer needed, it cannot be thrown into a garbage. It must be destroyed. The most popular and effective way of destroying this information is by shredding it. The HIPAA Act does not specify any shredding dimensions; just that patient information can be shredded.
It is recommended when shredding a patients records, to use at least a security level three paper shredder. Strip-cut paper shredders, with a shred width of ¼-inch, run the risk of being re-assembled. Cross-cut shredding is the preferred method of destroying records and private information. You can read more about additional provisions of the HIPAA act by visiting the United States Department of Health and Human Services: Government HIPAA Information.
In June 2005, a law went into effect that requires anyone who has one or more employees to properly destroy their personal information when being discarded. This new law is called the “Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act” (FACTA). Not many people know about this new law and fewer people are aware of the penalties involved if it is not followed. FACTA was created to protect private employee information. FACTA is the biggest ID protection act to be issued since HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996).
Employees could be recipients of a class-action lawsuit or government fines if they do not comply. Civil and state laws can charge up to $1,000 in fines per violation and federal law could cost up to $2,500 per violation. Fines can be avoided if employers properly destroy employee information with a paper shedder.
Identity theft continues to be a problem. Garbage, by law, is considered unprotected and is vulnerable to dumpster divers and thieves. Employers cannot throw employee information in the garbage and consider it properly discarded. FACTA applies to all employees, even if you have just one. This means that yard workers, cleaners and nannies apply to this new rule as well.
One of the best ways to destroy personal information is by using a paper shredder. Strip-cut and cross-cut paper shredders can both be used to do this.