1. Health insurance

Do I have a right to health insurance?


As long as you are not already covered by your employer, you have a right to purchase health insurance from (enabled by the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare”). You have this right even if you have a preexisting condition.1Affordable Care Act

Am I required to have health insurance?

Through the end of 2018, you are required to have or purchase health insurance (with exceptions listed here), or you will receive a fine of $695 per person ($347.50 per child) or 2.5% of your household income, whichever is higher, which is collected as part of calculating and filing your tax return every year.2Affordable Care Act Starting in 2019, this so called “individual mandate” will expire, and people would no longer be required to have insurance. (Note: The individual mandate was repealed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017)3More on the individual mandate:

Can I get free or reduced cost health insurance?

If you qualify based on your income (generally less than $50K per year) and certain other factors, you may receive “subsidies” to help pay for your health insurance premiums. See for more.

Also if your income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty line (generally about $15K or less per year for an individual), you may be eligible for free or very low cost health insurance (called Medicaid, aka “MediCal” in California).

If you are legally determined as permanently disabled, or you are at least 65 years old, you likely qualify for low cost health insurance, called Medicare.

Is my health insurance required to cover certain things?

Yes. Under the Affordable Care Act, plans offered on the individual or small group market must cover the following 10 categories of “essential health benefits“:

  1. ambulatory patient services (outpatient care, such as doctor’s visits)
  2. emergency services
  3. hospitalization
  4. maternity and newborn care
  5. mental health and substance use disorder services including behavioral health treatment
  6. prescription drugs
  7. rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (rehabilitative = regaining lost skills or functions; habilitative = maintaining, learning, or improving skills or functions)
  8. laboratory services
  9. preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  10. pediatric (healthcare for children) services, including oral and vision care.

2. Medical records

Do my health care providers or other professionals have the right to share my medical information with others without my permission?

Generally, no. They must protect the privacy of your medical records.4U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Sec. 164.508 The relevant law is called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and here is a fun example of a violation.

Do I have the right to obtain my medical records?

Yes.5U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Sec. 164.524 Under federal law, you have the right to obtain a copy of your medical records from your health care provider within 30 days of requesting it.

Exceptions include:

  • Psychotherapy records
  • Information compiled in reasonable anticipation of, or for use in, a civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding

Do I have the right to correct mistakes in my records?

Not exactly. You can request that the healthcare provider which created the information amends it, and the provider must do so if he/she agrees that the information is inaccurate or incomplete.  However, if the provider does not agree to your request, they may not need to amend the record. That said, you have the right to submit a statement of disagreement that the provider must add to your record.6U.S. Code of Fed Regs, Title 45, Sec. 164.526; Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996

3. Assisted Suicide/ Medical Aid in Dying

Are doctors allowed to help a terminally ill person die?

Yes. In California you have the right to request medical assistance to end your life when you are suffering from a terminal illness. The procedure is sometimes referred to as “death with dignity.”

4. Prescription Drugs

Are there any restrictions on doctors giving out prescription medications?

Yes. Before initially prescribing (and every 4 months thereafter) narcotic painkillers like Oxycontin, Vicoden, etc., and steroids, sleep aids, and psychiatric medication, doctors and nurses must now check an electronic database for signs of drug abuse.7SB 482

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