Patient Rights in Addiction Treatment

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Patient Rights in Addiction Treatment

Whether you’re considering addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, maintaining privacy during rehab can be a major concern. You may worry that your employer will judge you or fire you if they find out you are going to rehab, or you may worry that a future employer will ask you about your past substance abuse, jeopardizing your shot at your dream job. The good news is there are many laws and regulations in place that protect your privacy as well as your job when it comes to medical treatment. Before enrolling in a drug and alcohol rehab program, it is important to be aware of your rights as a patient.

Your Rights Under The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that allows eligible employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical or family reasons, including substance abuse treatment. While FMLA does not guarantee pay, there are certain rights that it does guarantee. For example, under FMLA, you have a right to your group health insurance. As long as you continue to pay your part of your premium, your employer is required to keep your group health insurance active while you are in treatment. You also are not required to disclose your diagnosis to your employer; you only need to provide information confirming that the reason for your leave is eligible for FMLA.

Additionally, FMLA protects certain rights upon your return to work.

  • Your employer must let you return to the same job you left or one that is identical
  • Your pay must remain the same as it was before you took family and medical leave
  • Time taken off under FMLA may not be held against you in the form of promotions, discipline, or hiring

Protected Rights Under The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects the privacy of patient medical records. HIPAA ensures that your personal information won’t be disclosed without your written consent. Although there are a few exceptions to this law, such as in instances of abuse, neglect, or crime, HIPAA protects you in three ways:

  1. Your health records cannot be shared with your employer or anyone else without your written consent.
  2. You have the right to request that your information is not shared with certain individuals or entities.
  3. You have the right to know and be notified regarding to whom and when your information is shared

In other words, nobody can obtain your medical records without your permission. If you don’t want your employer or your landlord to know you are going to rehab, HIPAA ensures your privacy.

Another law directly regarding patient privacy during rehab is 42 CFR Part 2. This law was developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to prevent programs and staff from revealing information about a patient’s substance use disorder without their consent. For example, staff members who tell someone else that a specific individual is obtaining treatment is a violation of the law.

In the end, the only person who has the right to disclose your protected health information (PHI) is you and a legal guardian, if applicable.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Will Protect You on Future Job Applications

Another concern you may have is whether or not your future employers will find out or ask you about your history of substance abuse. Fortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulates interview questions, so employers are not legally permitted to ask questions about your addiction or alcoholism. This is because substance use disorder is considered a legitimate health concern and a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACT).

If you are interviewing for a job after rehab and are asked about your addiction, you can simply decline to answer, as this violates EEOC guidelines.

Patient Rights During Rehab

Patients in the American healthcare system have many rights in nearly all medical and clinical settings. It is the responsibility of each individual treatment program to uphold patient integrity and protect these rights. Some of your patient rights include:

  • The right to request and obtain your medical records
  • All patients should expect to be treated equally, respectfully, and without discrimination or abuse
  • The right to participate in care, make informed decisions about said care, and the right to refuse treatment (if the patient is not a minor)
  • Freedom from unnecessary restraints or seclusion that are used as a means of coercion, discipline, or retaliation
  • The right to designate a representative or individual to make decisions on your behalf
  • Patients have a right to informed consent. Any procedure that is practiced should come after the practitioner provides a clear explanation of the risks and benefits

States may also have their own individual laws, given they operate within the bounds of federal law, that outline additional patient rights and provisions.

Find an Addiction Treatment Program in New Jersey Today

In a perfect world, you would be able to seek treatment for your addiction without being judged or punished by those around you. However, there is still a vast stigma surrounding the disease of addiction today, so you have the right to protect yourself against this stigma by practicing your rights and maintaining your privacy.

At New Jersey Addiction Intervention, we only partner with trusted and reliable rehab programs that abide by federal, state, and local privacy laws. We can help connect you with a treatment provider that will respect your privacy and treat you with dignity and respect. To find a rehab center near you or to learn more about your rights as a patient, give us a call today.

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