Congress and the health care industry have agreed that standards for the electronic exchange of administrative and financial health care transactions are needed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to adopt such standards.
National standards for electronic health care transactions will encourage electronic commerce in the health care industry and ultimately simplify the processes involved. This will result in savings from the reduction in administrative burdens on health care providers and health plans. Today, health care providers and health plans that conduct business electronically must use many different formats for electronic transactions. For example, about 400 different formats exist today for health care claims. With a national standard for electronic claims and other transactions, health care providers will be able to submit the same transaction to any health plan in the United States and the health plan must accept it. Health plans will be able to send standard electronic transactions such as remittance advices and referral authorizations to health care providers. These national standards will make electronic data interchange a viable and preferable alternative to paper processing for providers and health plans alike.