In the NPRM, we defined "health care clearinghouse" as a public or private entity that processes or facilitates the processing of nonstandard data elements of health information into standard data elements. The entity receives health care transactions from health care providers or other entities, translates the data from a given format into one acceptable to the intended payor or payors, and forwards the processed transaction to appropriate payors and clearinghouses. Billing services, repricing companies, community health management information systems, community health information systems, and "value-added" networks and switches would have been considered to be health care clearinghouses for purposes of this part, if they perform the functions of health care clearinghouses as described in the preceding sentences.
In the final regulation, we modify the definition of health care clearinghouse to reflect changes in the definition published in the Transactions Rule. The definition in the final rule is:
Health care clearinghouse means a public or private entity, including billing services, repricing companies, community health management information systems or community health information systems, and "value-added" networks and switches, that does either of the following functions:
(1) Processes or facilitates the processing of health information received from another entity in a nonstandard format or containing nonstandard data content into standard data elements or a standard transaction.
(2) Receives a standard transaction from another entity and processes or facilitates the processing of health information into nonstandard format or nonstandard data content for the receiving entity.
We note here that the term health care clearinghouse may have other meanings and connotations in other contexts, but the regulation defines it specifically, and an entity is considered a health care clearinghouse only to the extent that it meets the criteria in this definition. Telecommunications entities that provide connectivity or mechanisms to convey information, such as telephone companies and Internet Service Providers, are not health care clearinghouses as defined in the rule unless they actually carry out the functions outlined in our definition. Value added networks and switches are not health care clearinghouses unless they carry out the functions outlined in the definition. The examples of entities in our proposed definition we continue to consider to be health care clearinghouses, as well as any other entities that meet that definition, to the extent that they perform the functions in the definition.
In order to fall within this definition of clearinghouse, the covered entity must perform the clearinghouse function on health information received from some other entity. A department or component of a health plan or health care provider that transforms nonstandard information into standard data elements or standard transactions (or vice versa) is not a clearinghouse for purposes of this rule, unless it also performs these functions for another entity. As described in more detail in § 164.504(d), we allow affiliates to perform clearinghouse functions for each other without triggering the definition of "clearinghouse" if the conditions in § 164.504(d) are met.