In attempting to protect consumers from harassing calls made by businesses and other organizations through the passing of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Congress recognized that in some instances, consumers may need to receive calls from some organizations. As a result, there are several exemptions to the regulations of the TCPA for some entities that may need to contact a consumer in a way that would otherwise be prohibited under the law. These exemptions include an exemption for what is known as health care messages under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) coming from a consumer’s health care provider. The rules governing how the exemption works are promulgated and clarified by the Federal Communications Commission.
HIPAA is a federal law that protects or limits access to a person’s medical information. The HIPAA exemption to the TCPA covers healthcare marketing messages sent by a covered entity and its business associates and permits these messages even without the consumer’s prior written express consent. The definitions of which entities qualify as covered entities and business associates are provided under HIPAA, but generally cover medical providers, health insurance companies, and other businesses that may work with them.
Suppose a consumer provides a telephone number to a healthcare provider. In that case, the provider is allowed to call or send text messages to the consumer as long as the call is limited in scope to the purpose for which the number was provided in the first place. The provision of the telephone number is seen as an invitation to receive calls or text messages.
Certain non-marketing telephone calls and text messages can be made to or sent to a consumer without prior consent, if these calls and text messages are made and sent free of charge to the consumer. These calls and messages are those that relate to appointment reminders, lab results, pre-registration instructions, prescription instructions, home health care instructions, and calls of a similar nature. However, even under the exemption, these calls are supposed to be limited in duration and any text messages sent are supposed to be brief and concise, the covered entities and their business associates are also limited to one of each per day, and a weekly total of three calls and text messages. Consumers must also be provided with an opt-out option for the messages if they do not want to receive them, and the covered entity must immediately comply with an opt-out request.
Telephone calls or text messages of a financial nature, such as for the purposes of billing or debt collections are not covered under the exemption. For these calls, the general provisions and protections available under the TCPA are available.
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The TCPA offers consumers some protection against harassment by debt collectors using robocalls to call consumers relentlessly. Under the TCPA, a consumer can seek compensation for any violations under the law. For a free consultation on how to seek compensation for TCPA violations and how an experienced consumer protection attorney can help you, contact the Rochester New York Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PLLC today.