HIPAA prevented me from helping solve a crime

Tl;dr at bottom

I work customer service for insurance and we have to abide by the HIPAA act which basically means we cannot give people information on their spouse or children’s health information without confirmation from the member if they are over 18.

One day I got a call from a woman asking for her to tell me who her husband’s dentist was. Giving my usual spiel, I told her I cannot release that information unless he gives me his authorization to tell her.

Now here is where it got wild: while I was expecting the usual “he’s on my policy I should be able to get this information” or something of that nature but instead I got the biggest curveball.

The woman responded “My husband was murdered and we need to know who his dentist is in order for them to identify the body!”

I was shocked and felt horrible that she experienced this so I thought in a situation like this we should be able to tell her without issues. Since I was fairly new to the job at the time I put the member on hold and verified with my supervisor if I can release the information to her. To my surprise she said we cannot tell her that without something in writing or a subpoena from a detective or police department.

I felt awful having to tell the member this and I even considered breaking HIPAA to help her out but I knew I couldn’t lose my job and go against my supervisor’s advice.

The woman was in tears yelling about how her husband was murdered and needed the information for the detectives to investigate and I felt like a huge A-hole for having to withhold it from her, even if I was legally not allowed to give it. We kept going back and forth until she ultimately disconnected in frustration and sadness. I felt so horrible even though I was just doing my job and couldn’t help her.

TL;DR: Woman wanted to know who her husband’s dentist was. Was not allowed to tell her due to federal privacy laws. Woman said she needed to know because her husband was murdered. Was still not allowed to give out information due to federal privacy laws and felt horrrible.

submitted by /u/yoshigronk
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