By Akanksha A Panicker
Drugstores have become well known for their wide array of products, not altogether restricted to healthcare products alone. One of the largest drugstore chains, Rite Aid Corporation has established a strong foothold from its location in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
When Rite Aid was initiated in 1962, the chain was dubbed the Thrift D Discount Center at its first location when it was established in Scranton, Pennsylvania. From there, the firm has grown to be listed as one of the biggest companies in the United States based on gross revenues. Rite Aid is currently the East Coast’s leading drugstore chain and altogether the seventh-largest drugstore chain in the United States.
On September 19, 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) authorized a fourth arrangement for Walgreens to buy the Rite Aid stores. Instead of the merger, Walgreens and Rite Aid agreed to this deal for Walgreens to buy nearly two thousand Rite Aid stores and three distribution centers.
[1.0] RITE AID AND WHAT THEY PRIVATE HEALTH INFORMATION OF THE INDIVIDUAL
Being primarily a pharmaceutical chain of companies, medical information about individuals will be used and disclosed in order to provide service to the individual. Additionally, Rite Aid provides an understanding as to how this information may be accessed.
The primary governing statute that Rite Aid works with regarding individual privacy is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (‘HIPAA’) Privacy Rule, which deals with national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. The Privacy Rule applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct health care transactions electronically.
Rite Aid’s policy prior to releasing any protected information is to ask the requesting individual to sign an Acknowledgment that they have received via a Notice of Privacy Practices. This Notice provides insight into circumstances that Rite Aid may use and disclose protected health information to carry out treatment, payment, or health care operations. This notice delineates the purposes wherein Rite Aid may collect information as permitted or required by law.
Majorly, Rite Aid will use information with regard to treatment, payment, and health care operations. Rite Aid accepts written or fax health information or prescription orders for the individual. Protected health information will thus kick in in order to appropriately dispense prescription medications. Additionally, information may be provided in coordination with other health care providers, usually for prescriptions, lab work, or other healthcare.
Since healthcare majorly concerns insurance, acceptable usage of your protected health information would be to obtain payment for products and services. The insurer or the third-party payor can be contacted to determine.
[2.0] USES AND DISCLOSURES THAT ARE PERMITTED OR REQUIRED BY THE HIPAA PRIVACY RULE
It must be noted that the pharmacists may disclose any protected health information to another person with a close relationship to them (family, relative, or friend) or any person as identified by the individual as being involved in their health care. This could be as minimal as allowing those persons to pick up filled prescriptions, medical supplies, or medical records on behalf of the individual or even entering into a Business Associate contract to perform third person services.
Rite Aid also requires the disclosure of protected health information in legal circumstances. Federal and state laws allow Rite Aid to disclose this protected health information, especially with regard to circumstances with drugs, foods, supplements, and other health products or to furnish marketing surveillance to aid product recalls, repairs, or replacement. This information goes to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relative to adverse events and is important to understand the effects of the health products being offered. These items can also be released to public health or legal authorities who are responsible for preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and measures, this information is essential to be provided.
For the service of legal process, the information is also provided to law enforcement agencies as specifically required by law. This often comes in the context of a subpoena. This legal process information should emanate directly stemming from a court order, administrative order, subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful processes by another person involved in a dispute involving a patient.
It is necessary for the patient must be intimated or attempted to have been intimated as to details about the request or to obtain an order protecting the requested protected health information, even it is considered necessary to comply with laws relating to worker’s compensation or similar programs established by law. Similar information provided to law or correctional agencies is important considering if the patient is incarcerated, wherein information will have to be provided to a correctional institution or its agents. Thus, if a patient is or becomes an inmate of such an institution, the responsibility of information from Rite Aid would become necessary for the patient’s health or the health and safety of others.
[2.1] RELEASE OF INFORMATION TO ENTITIES APART FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES
Information may also be provided to agencies that are responsible for supervising health like medical licensing boards. This information is necessary for inquiry by agencies as authorized by law, including audits, investigations, and inspections necessary for Rite Aid’s licensure and for the government to monitor the health care system. These agencies and law enforcement agencies would also comprise the release of information to a coroner or medical examiner when necessary. This could be to identify a deceased person or to determine a cause of death-wherein the law enforcement agency often comes into play-or to funeral directors consistent with applicable law to carry out their duties.
This may also be necessary for terms of when individuals donate their organs, wherein the information is released to organ procurement or donation organizations or other bodies that may be involved in the procurement, banking, or transplantation of organs and transplant, consistent with applicable laws.
It must be kept in mind that the main reason why the information would be provided from Rite Aid boils down to whether the release of the information is important in that situation. This is especially necessary to prevent a serious threat to the patient’s health and safety or the health and safety of the public or another person. This would also include when information is provided to a government authority, such as a social service or protective services agency, and if the patient agrees to the disclosure, or if the disclosure is allowed by law.
In the event that Rite Aid reasonably believes the patient to be a victim of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence and Rite Aid believes it is necessary to prevent serious harm to the patient or to someone else or the law enforcement or public official that is to receive the report represents that it is necessary and will not be used against the patient.
[3.0] REQUIREMENTS FOR THE PRIVACY RULE
The Privacy Rule can also be superseded by a more stringent law or regulation than the HIPAA Privacy Rule if this regulation exists in that specific state. Providing information about privacy is the responsibility of the Rite Aid Privacy Office for individual state law protections.
Even for authorized uses and disclosures of protected health information, it is necessary to obtain this authorization in writing by the individual before using or disclosing any protected health information. This is especially true for marketing purposes or if the goal is to sell the protected health information. This Authorisation is not perpetual and can be in writing at any time. Upon receipt of the written revocation, Rite Aid is mandated to stop using or disclosing protected health information about you, except to the extent that the information has already been used based on the pre-existing Authorization.
The restriction of information in carrying out treatment, payment, or health care operations can also be ensured via a written request to the Privacy Officer. This restriction is immediately carried out if in context of a disclosure that is made for [A.] carrying out payment or health care operations, [B.] not otherwise mandated by law and [C.] concerning a healthcare item or service for which the individual has paid in full by virtue of their own financial capacity. Under these circumstances, Rite Aid would be required to follow the affirmative request not to disclose that information to a health plan. Other restrictions are not always binding unless Rite Aid specifically agrees to the same.,
Any individual can avail themselves of the right to request any communication to be made regarding protected health information is to be done via alternative means or locations. Rite aid can communicate through mail or calling one’s telephone, but can also comply with a reasonable request is done via written communication.
[4.0] HOW TO ACCESS PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION
Any individual has the right to inspect and obtain a copy of their protected health information as well as access and copy protected health information about them. The information that is contained in the designated record maintained as per general retention of document requirements.
The designated record set usually will include prescription and billing records. To receive a copy, a written request should be sent to the Privacy Officer. Additionally, access is relatively simple to comply with, with forms for access requests being available in pharmacies. Any request made often comes with a reasonable fee for the costs of copying, mailing, or other supplies that are necessary to grant the request. However, requests may be denied to inspect and copy, although this denial can be reviewed or appealed.
Specific to pharmacies and healthcare providers, amending the protected health information maintained can be requested by the patient or any individual, especially if the information is incomplete or incorrect. This request can be made to enforce the amendment for as long as the information has been recorded. When mailing the request to the Privacy Office, it is imperative to include a reason that supports the request, which can sometimes be denied. On the chance that the denial takes place, the individual has the right to file a statement of disagreement with the decision, to which a rebuttal may be furnished.
[4.1] HOW TO ACCOUNT FOR DISCLOSURES OF PHI
For most disclosures of protected health information other than those made for treatment, payment, or health care operations, the individual has the right to receive an accounting of the disclosures that Rite Aid may have made in the six years before the date of the request for an accounting of disclosures of the protected health information.
The accounting will exclude disclosures that have been direct to the individual or friends or family members involved in their care, or for disclosures for purposes specifically authorized in writing. The time period for the requested accounting should be specified and it cannot span longer than six years. The first accounting that has been requested within a twelve-month period is free. Any additional accountings within this year are chargeable, although Rite Aid will notify f the cost involved and the request at that time can be changed or revoked. Any individual is required to receive a paper copy of Notice Of Privacy Practices even if they received the Notice electronically
[5.0] HOW TO SERVE A SUBPOENA, WARRANT, OR COURT ORDER:
A Subpoena, Warrant, or Court Order will almost always be from [A.] a law enforcement agency [B.] a health oversight agency (Board of Pharmacy, etc.), or [C.] a court or emanating from a court. It is necessary to direct these documents as addressed specifically to the individual store and being decided in its scope. This means that it must lay out whether the subpoena is issued in an effort to obtain prescriptions or copies of prescriptions or other related medical documents.
If the subpoena, warrant, or court order does indeed seek out these prescriptions or medical records, the pharmacist should accept it and forward immediately to the Legal Department who will send out the records request. In the alternative, the subpoena, warrant, or court could also be issued in an effort to procure business records that do not concern necessarily prescriptions or medical information. It must be remembered that a subpoena, warrant, or court order should be faxed to the Legal Department at the corporate office upon receipt.
Information may be faxed to the Office, as long as the fax is prefaced by a cover sheet that includes a confidentiality disclaimer that can be procured from the files that the Rite Aid Portal Forms includes. It is also necessary to detail the date that the store received the document and any other information that the faxing individual may have concerning it. Additionally, after the information is failed, the original version of the form should be provided to the Legal Department in a white postage-paid envelope.
A summons and complaint on Rite Aid or its employees should see that the documents are hand-delivered and directed to Rite Aid Corporation instead of being guided to the individual store in its intention to declare the initiation of a lawsuit.
Rite Aid Corporation has currently engaged CT Corporation as its registered agent and official receiver of process wherein the agent receives the summons on behalf of Rite Aid Corporation. CT Corporation maintains multiple office locations in several states and the individual or firm serving the summons must be aware of the location wherein service should be provided. Information can also be mailed in a Rite Aid postage-paid envelope to the legal department to the attention of the person responsible for the state.
Apart from providing COVID-19 testing, Rite Aid is present to assist in the processing of vaccines in some areas with allocation and appointment availability continuing to increase. This accessibility is dependent on the state or jurisdiction where the individual may reside or if they are eligible to receive a vaccine.
For more information on serving legal papers, contact a Professional Process Service (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST. If you found this article helpful, please consider donating. Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us! We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.
1. Walgreens Expands Covid-19 Vaccines To 49 States Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2021/04/12/walgreens-expands-covid-19-vaccines-to-49-states/?sh=177ccb202762 (last visited Apr 29, 2021)
2. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA or the Kennedy–Kassebaum Act Pub.L. 104–191
3. Rite-aid, https://fda.report/Company/Rite-Aid (last visited Apr 29, 2021)
4. Independence Blue Cross and Rite Aid work together to help members secure COVID-19 vaccine appointments, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/independence-blue-cross-and-rite-aid-work-together-to-help-members-secure-covid-19-vaccine-appointments-301279147.html (last visited Apr 29, 2021
5. Rite Aid Privacy Office at Privacy Office, Rite Aid, P.O. Box 3165, Harrisburg, PA 17105.
6. Subpoenas for Rite Aid Pharmacy should be addressed to:
Rite Aid Corporation
Attn: Legal Dept.
P.O. Box 3165
Harrisburg, PA 17105
Ph: (717) 761-2633 x6526
Fax: (717) 975-5952
7. Fax ALL SUBPOENAS, WARRANTS, OR COURT ORDERS immediately to:
(717) 761-2633 X5288
(717) 975-5952 Fax
Mail the SUBPOENAS, WARRANTS, OR COURT ORDERS after faxing to the attention of the associate in question (Legal Dept.) using a white postage-paid envelope.
8. A multi-national information services company based in the Netherlands with operations in over 35 countries
9. If the person seeking to serve the Summons needs more information, they may contact CT Corporation by telephoning (800) 624-0909 or e-mailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.