The HHS Office for Civil Rights recently announced a settlement and corrective action plan with Cornell Prescription Pharmacy (CPP), a small for-profit, single location, compounding pharmacy located in Denver, CO. CPP has agreed to pay $125,000 and enter into a corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. This outcome is indicative of OCR's unwillingness to demonstrate wide variance in its enforcement response based on the size of an affected covered entity or the number of patients involved in a potential HIPAA violation.… Continue Reading
When a data breach is discovered by a company, it is often the responsibility of the company’s in-house counsel to swiftly assess the breach and provide an initial report to company management. There are several steps that in-house counsel should follow if faced with a breach to allow for an adequate assessment that company management can use. As noted … Continue Reading
Last week, President Obama signed into law a bill that will eradicate Social Security Numbers (SSNs) from all Medicare beneficiary cards over the next eight years. Medicare has four years to begin issuing cards with new identifiers, and four years after that to reissue cards to current beneficiaries. The removal of SSNs from the cards is not only expected to decrease the risks associated with identity theft for Medicare beneficiaries, but also Medicare's risk of exposure associated with breaches of protected health and personal information under HIPAA and state privacy laws.… Continue Reading
State attorneys general across the United States have taken recent action towards addressing data privacy and security issues. In Connecticut, the attorney general announced the establishment of a Privacy and Data Security Department to handle investigations and litigation relating to data privacy and security. This month's National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Southern Region Meeting featured presentations on big data, cybersecurity, cloud computing and data breaches, and next month's NAAG presidential initiative summit will address topics such as intellectual property theft, cloud computing and digital currency. Finally, Washington's attorney general has proposed several amendments to expand the scope of that state's data breach notification requirements.… Continue Reading
On January 27, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a 71-page Staff Report on privacy and security issues with the Internet of Things (IoT) - the growing ability of everyday devices to monitor and communicate information through the Internet. The Staff Report - which follows up on the FTC's public workshop over concerns with the IoT, as well as the FTC's first enforcement action brought in September 2013 - is especially relevant in the life sciences industry, which may see potentially revolutionary advances as a result of the IoT.… Continue Reading
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed a law requiring health insurance carriers in that state to encrypt individuals' personal information. This new law will be enforced in conjunction with the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA), and failure to obey the law will be classified as a violation of the NJCFA, which could result in financial penalties for the carriers. The new legislation may also affect business associates through the contractual terms of business associate agreements.… Continue Reading
Reed Smith’s Global Regulatory Enforcement Law Blog features a post on a recent meeting at which Justice ministers from across the European Union managed to agree on a partial general approach on several aspects of the draft Data Protection Regulation, which aims to set out a general EU framework for data protection. The ministers have … Continue Reading
Reed Smith’s Global Regulatory Enforcement Law Blog features a post on a recent set of guidelines issued by the European Union’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party outlining how EU Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) intend to implement the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Google Spain SL and Google Inc. … Continue Reading
According to a recent study, the median amount of time between a breach of a company's cybernetwork and the discovery of that breach is 229 days. Given this lengthy amount of time, companies should consider the benefits of an expanded cyberliability insurance policy period, particularly if the company is switching from one insurance provider to another. This topic is discussed in "Hackers Don't Care About the Terms of Your Insurance Policy: The Importance of Retroactive Dates and Extended Reporting Periods in Effective Cyberliability Insurance Coverage," a client alert written by Reed Smith's Insurance Recovery Group.… Continue Reading
A recently enacted law in California is designed to expand the scope of requirements for entities that own, license, and maintain data or information about a resident of the state. This amendment to the California Civil Code, scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2015, was passed in the wake of several recent high-profile security breaches at such retailers as Target, Neiman Marcus, and The Home Depot.… Continue Reading
Reed Smith's Global Regulatory Enforcement Law Blog features a post on the recent phenomenon of wearable electronic devices and the legal issues that may arise from these gadgets. "Wearable Device Privacy - A Legislative Priority?," written by Reed Smith attorneys Frederick Lah and Khurram Gore, discusses a recent press release issued by U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York expressing concern that personal health data collected by wearable devices and fitness apps, including medical conditions, sleep patterns, calories burned, GPS locations, blood pressure, weight, and more, will be provided to third parties without the user knowing it. Schumer, citing this as a threat to personal privacy, has urged the Federal Trade Commission to mandate that device and app companies provide users with an explicit "opt-out," allowing them to block the distribution of this information to any third parties.… Continue Reading
Earlier this week, numerous media outlets reported on the Russian crime ring which had managed to steal more pieces of Internet data than any other group of hackers in history – a whopping collection of at least 1.2 billion user name and password combinations and over 500 million email addresses. The magnitude of data that … Continue Reading
The California Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, has issued a long-awaited guide on how companies can comply with the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA). CalOPPA applies to all companies which collect personally identifiable information from California residents online, regardless of whether that information is collected via a commercial website or a mobile application. This … Continue Reading
Reed Smith’s Global Regulatory Enforcement Law blog features two posts of interest to those in the life sciences industry, both written by Reed Smith partner Cynthia O’Donoghue. “EU Research Group Condemns EU Regulation for Restricting Growth in Life Sciences Sector” discusses the opposition of a lobbying group, led by the Wellcome Trust, to amendments to … Continue Reading
The theft of an unencrypted flash drive has led to an agreement by Adult & Pediatric Dermatology, P.C., of Concord, Mass., to pay $150,000 to the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules. This case marks the first settlement with a covered entity for not having policies and procedures in place to address the breach notification provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.… Continue Reading
This post was authored by Brad Rostolsky and Jennifer Pike. On September 20, 2013, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced the addition of a new resource on its website to assist law enforcement and emergency planners when addressing information-sharing that may be subject to the HIPAA … Continue Reading
Recent posts on www.lifescienceslegalupdate.com include:
"OCR Releases HIPAA Guide for Law Enforcement," which links to new references on the HHS website for law enforcement and emergency planners.
View the entire entry:
"OCR Announces Enforcement Delay for CLIA Labs," which references the HHS' decision to delay enforcement of certain requirements pertaining to HIPAA-covered labs.… Continue Reading
The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) released on September 19, 2013 guidance on financially remunerated prescription refill reminders.
The release of the guidance follows an announcement September 11, 2013, that HHS has decided not to enforce the restrictions on financially remunerated prescription refill reminders until November 7, 2013, 45 days after the general HITECH compliance date of September 23, 2013. HHS' decision to delay enforcement came on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Adheris, Inc., a Massachusetts company that provides prescription refill reminders. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the HITECH Final Rule's restrictions on remunerated prescription refill reminders.… Continue Reading
On September 5, 2013, Adheris, Inc. ("Adheris"), a Massachusetts company that provides, among other services, prescription refill reminders, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health & Human Services ("Secretary"), and the Department of Health & Human Services ("HHS"), challenging the constitutionality of the HITECH Final Rule's restrictions on remunerated prescription refill reminders. Contemporaneous with its lawsuit, Adheris filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction seeking to enjoin the Secretary's enforcement of these restrictions, which was set to begin on September 23, 2013.
In a joint motion filed by the parties today seeking to suspend the court's schedule on the Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the Secretary and HHS have informed the court that HHS expects to release guidance by September 23, 2013, on the HITECH Final Rule's "reasonable in amount" restriction applicable to financially remunerated prescription refill reminders. The Secretary has also decided not to enforce the restrictions on financially remunerated prescription refill reminders until November 7, 2013, 45 days after the general HITECH compliance date of September 23, 2013.… Continue Reading
Who knew that photocopiers stored information? Apparently "CBS Evening News" did, and now an April 2010 investigative report has led to a million-dollar HIPAA settlement.
Affinity Health Plan, Inc. (Affinity), a New York-based, not-for-profit health plan, agreed to pay the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) $1,215,780 to settle potential violations of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules. The settlement resulted from a breach self-report by Affinity, which first learned of the electronic protected health information (PHI) stored on its formerly leased photocopier's hard drive from "CBS Evening News" (CBS).… Continue Reading
On September 17, 2012, the HHS Office of Civil Rights ("OCR") announced another settlement and corrective action plan following an entity's breach self-report required by HITECH's Breach Notification Rule. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates, Inc. (collectively "MEEI") have agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule following the theft of a physician's unencrypted, but protected, laptop, providing additional evidence that: (1) OCR will likely view any breach notification as an opportunity to conduct a de facto audit of an entity's general HIPAA compliance; and (2) encryption of all portable devices containing electronic protected health information ("ePHI"), though not technically "required," is a critical compliance consideration.… Continue Reading
On April 17, 2012, the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced a settlement and corrective action plan with Phoenix Cardiac Surgery, P.C. (Phoenix), a small cardiology practice based in Phoenix and Prescott, Arizona. More specifically, Phoenix has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle allegations of HIPAA violations arising out of an investigation conducted by OCR.… Continue Reading
On March 13, 2012, the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced the first enforcement action resulting from a breach self-report required by HITECH's Breach Notification Rule. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee (BCBST) has agreed to pay HHS $1,500,000 to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules and has entered into a corrective action plan to address gaps in its HIPAA compliance program.
The HIPAA/HITECH Breach Notification Rule requires covered entities to report a breach (e.g., an impermissible use or disclosure of protected health information that compromises the security or privacy of the protected health information) to the affected individual(s), HHS and, at times, the media. OCR's investigation of BCBST followed a breach report submitted by BCBST informing HHS that 57 unencrypted computer hard drives were stolen from a leased facility in Tennessee. The hard drives contained the protected health information of more than 1 million individuals, including member names, social security numbers, diagnosis code, dates of birth, and health plan identification numbers.
According to OCR's investigation, BCBST failed to implement appropriate administrative and physical safeguards as required by the HIPAA Security Rule. More specifically, BCBST failed to perform the required security evaluation in response to operational changes and did not have adequate facility access controls.
In addition to the $1,500,000 settlement, the Resolution Agreement between BCBST and OCR requires BCBST to revise its Privacy and Security policies, conduct robust trainings for all employees, and perform monitor reviews to ensure compliance with the corrective action plan. BCBST did not admit any liability in the agreement and OCR did not concede that BCBST was not liable for civil monetary penalties.
Additional information about OCR's enforcement activities can be found at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/enforcement/examples/index.html.… Continue Reading
To implement the HITECH Act's mandate for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to perform HIPAA audits, OCR has just announced that it is piloting a program to perform up to 150 audits of covered entities to assess privacy and security compliance. Audits conducted during the pilot phase are planned to begin with an initial 20 audits between November 2011 and April 2012. The remaining audits are scheduled to conclude by December 2012. All covered entities and business associates are eligible for audits; however, OCR has indicated that it is focusing on covered entities (range in type and size) in the initial phase. Business associates will be included in future audits.… Continue Reading