HIPAA and the Use of Social Security Numbers
The following information is provided as a courtesy to our clients to address frequently asked
questions about HIPAA and is not intended as interpretive or legal advice.
We have received a number of questions inquiring as to whether the Privacy Rules
promulgated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA")
will prohibit the collection or use of an individual's Social Security number as
an identifier for use in obtaining healthcare products and information.
Although the HIPAA Privacy Rules provide for the protection of individually
identifiable information, which may include Social Security numbers, we do
not believe that it is the intent of HIPAA to limit the collection or use of an
individual's Social Security number for the following reasons. First, and
most importantly, the HIPAA regulations do not specifically prohibit the
use or disclosure of an individual's Social Security number. Secondly, since
the individual's Social Security number falls under the same category as other
individually identifiable information, such as the individual's name and address,
it is equally protected under the HIPAA privacy and security requirements.
Lastly, because of the fact that the Social Security number falls under the same
category as other individually identifiable information, to prohibit the use or
disclosure of the individual's Social Security number would also preclude the use
of the individual's other identifiers, such as name and address, which is clearly
not the intent of HIPAA.
In view of public concerns about Social Security Numbers and the problem of
identity theft, Better Living Now is taking steps to remove Social Security
Numbers from major documents that are mailed or otherwise distributed externally.
However, please note that Social Security Numbers will continue to be required by
Better Living Now for internal eligibility and identity verification purposes.