Hipaa At The Baptist Church

1 May 2004

Baptist churches have a string of administrative and organizational practices as ridiculous as the tax code. One of those is to name Sunday School departments according to the age of the members. There was a time that Adult 8 or 9 was the department for those whose next stop might be the cemetary. Adult 1 was for those who had just begun life as an adult – usually, a married adult.

Then, someone with far too much time on his hands reversed the whole thing. Assigning higher numbers to the older folks was offensive, so Adult 1 became the place you stayed until Adult 0 (heaven) called you home. Adult 9 was where you began.

That simply gives you a glimpse into the silliness that some Baptist churches deal with from an organizational perspective. Get inside some of those older Sunday School departments and you discover what’s really important. ”Oh, excuse me young man, we only serve donut holes in this department – not donuts.” It was the nicest thing that had been said to me in a while. Young man – I’m fifty years old.

Now comes the fact that under your Federal Goverment’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), a pastor cannot call a hospital to check on the welfare of a church member, and prayer requests printed in the bulletin may have to cease or be heavily edited.

Don’t misunderstand. Some of this is a good thing. The Baptist church has had many a Wednesday evening prayer meeting where someone stands up and says, ”Sally’s still in the hospital. Her dizziness has gone, but she’s still not able to be up much because the oozing wound from her surgery is till draining and…”

Look. Sally needs our prayers. Sally’s oozing wound does NOT need our prayers. I kid you not when I tell you I’ve heard people go on for fifteen or twenty minutes with every minute detail of what some poor soul has experienced at the hands of modern medicine. I don’t need the details!

HIPAA’s solitary contribution to the betterment of society may come from having shortened prayer meeting at the Baptist church on Wednesday night. [inspiration for this little rant comes courtesy of Jeffrey Veen]

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  1. Frank Patrick    1 May 2004, 16:07    #