Timeline of Important Events in the History of HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 is widely accepted to be one of the most important pieces of healthcare legislation ever to be introduced in the United States. Next year will be the 20th Anniversary of the introduction of the act, and during that time there have been some major updates to that legislation.

The legislation was originally introduced during Bill Clinton’s tenure as president, and was originally intended to improve the portability and accountability of health insurance coverage. The act promoted the use of medical savings accounts by introducing tax breaks and ensured coverage for employees with pre-existing medical conditions. It also ensured that coverage continued when individuals changed employer.

Since the act was introduced, its scope has grown considerably and it has become a vehicle to encourage healthcare providers and other covered entities to make the change from paper files to electronic healthcare records, and along with that change, introduce a number of measures to ensure patient healthcare data is kept secure. When accidental or deliberate disclosure of data occurs, the Act spells out the actions that covered entities must take to notify the victims and to mitigate the damage caused.

Business Associates of healthcare providers and insurers now have to abide by the Act’s Privacy and Security Rules, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights – along with state Attorney Generals’ Offices and other government bodies – can fine organizations that fail to apply the administrative, physical and technical measures to safeguard healthcare data.

There have been numerous milestones in the history of HIPAA, in terms of legislative updates and enforcement actions, which are summarized in the HIPAA infographic below, further information can be found in our text version of the history of HIPAA:


Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.