Fitch: HIPAA Costs Lower than Estimated

June 3, 2003 ( - The costs of complying with new federal medical information privacy laws won't be as high as originally anticipated, a new study says.

According to the Fitch study, costs of coping with laws imposed by The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) won’t be as onerous as feared because many hospitals and health systems have recently upgraded their computer systems. Many of the new systems are already HIPAA-compliant, Fitch researchers said.

HIPAA standardizes the interchange of health care data in order to improve the industry’s efficiency and effectiveness and to improve upon confidentiality of patient records. All health care organizations are required to become HIPAA compliant, including providers, payors, physician offices, clearinghouses, and vendors, among others by the end of this year.

While costs for being HIPAA compliant have ranged from conservative estimates such as $5.8 billion from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to $43 billion by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Fitch expects that standardized claims will produce operating efficiencies that will ultimately be more than the cost of meeting compliance deadlines.

“We believe that most hospitals will be able to absorb these costs without a large negative impact,” Fitch’s Joseph Korleski said in a statement. “It is important to note that the hospitals that implemented systems for compliance when the rules were announced are more likely to realize efficiencies at a faster rate.”