How can the media report so much about the medical situations of celebrities and politicians? Does freedom of the press trump the HIPAA law in these cases?
—A.B. , Downers Grove, Ill. No, the HIPAA law, which protects the privacy of health information, is almost absolute. Public figures are definitely protected. When you see details about their health in the news, it’s because: 1. They released it themselves; or 2. A snooper viewed records without authorization (a HIPAA violation in itself) and leaked details, e.g., when hospital employees shared private information about Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Farrah Fawcett. In all those instances, the employees were fired, and their medical institutions were sued.