The interpretation is posted on the Office for Civil Rights' website as a guidance for the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which overturned the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act providing that federal law would only recognized opposite-sex marriages.
The guidance refers to a section of HIPAA that uses the terms “spouse” and “marriage” in the legal definition of family members. HIPAA permits covered entities to share patient information with family members.
The guidance also explains the applicability of the court's decision on a HIPAA provision that prohibits health plans, other than those issuing long-term-care policies, from using or disclosing genetic information for underwriting, such as using the genetic information about one family member in making an underwriting decision about another. “This includes the genetic tests of a same-sex spouse of the individual, or the manifestation of a disease or disorder in the same-sex spouse of the individual,” the guidance said.
The Office for Civil Rights statement said it also plans to issue “additional clarifications through guidance or to initiate rulemaking” covering the role of same-sex spouses as a patient's personal representative under the HIPAA privacy rule.
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