Tag Archives: HITECH Act

OCR Settlement Reflects Continued Emphasis on HIPAA Security Rule Safeguards

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced a $150,000 settlement of potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule by Anchorage Community Mental Health Services (ACMHS). These potential violations were caused by a malware breach of ACMHS's information technology resources. OCR's subsequent investigation of the breach found that ACMHS's preventitive security measures prior to the breach were insufficient, and the settlement includes a Resolution Agreement with a corrective action plan for ACMHS to improve its security measures.… Continue Reading

ONC Tiger Team Takes a Bite Out of the Proposed Access Report Rule

The Privacy and Security Tiger Team, a subcommittee of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's HIT Policy Committee, has recommended that the Office for Civil Rights of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services abandon its May 2011 proposed rule to require covered entities to provide patients with a list of workforce members who have accessed protected health information contained in an electronic designated record set, concluding that the rule is overbroad and lacks value.… Continue Reading

HHS Seeks to Reduce Gun Violence Via Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule

After receiving more than 2,000 comments to its April 2013 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the Department of Health & Human Services has proposed to amend the HIPAA Privacy Rule to expressly permit certain covered entities to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS") the identities of individuals who are prohibited by federal law, for mental health reasons, from possessing firearms (commonly referred to as the "mental health prohibitor"). OCR has cited concerns that the existing HIPAA Privacy Rule may be preventing some state entities (which likely perform both HIPAA-covered and non-covered functions) from reporting to the NICS the identities of individuals subject to the mental health prohibitor. Therefore, HHS has proposed to add to the Privacy Rule new provisions at 45 CFR § 164.512(k)(7), which would permit certain covered entities to disclose the minimum necessary demographic and other information for NICS reporting purposes.… Continue Reading

OCR OUT OF COMPLIANCE? OIG Report Concludes OCR Slow To Enforce HIPAA Security Rule and To Comply with Federal Cybersecurity Requirements

According to a report published by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) on November 21, 2013, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is not adequately overseeing and enforcing the HIPAA Security Rule. The OIG's report concluded that OCR failed to provide for periodic audits to ensure that covered entities were in compliance with the Security Rule, and failed to consistently follow its investigation procedures and maintain documentation needed to support key decisions made during investigations conducted in response to reported violations of the Security Rule.… Continue Reading

Physician Practice Caught in OCR Crossfire Following Theft of Unencrypted Flash Drive

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

OCR Releases HIPAA Guide for Law Enforcement

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

OCR Announces Enforcement Delay for CLIA Labs

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: http://www.lifescienceslegalupdate.com/2013/09/articles/data-privacy/ocr-releases-hipaa-guide-for-law-enforcement/ ...and "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

HHS Releases Prescription Refill Reminder Guidance

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

HITECH FINAL RULE DELAYED ENFORCEMENT: PRESCRIPTION REFILL REMINDERS

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

OCR Announces Expansion of its Health Information Privacy Enforcement Team

On February 27, 2013, the HHS Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") announced the availability of several Health Information Privacy Specialist positions. This expansion of OCR's health information privacy enforcement team signals that OCR's increased enforcement activity during 2012 will continue in 2013. In 2012, OCR announced several enforcement actions resulting from a breach self-report required by HITECH's Breach Notification Rule, including the $1.7 million settlement in June with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary's $1.5 million settlement in September. OCR's 2012 enforcement actions, and OCR leadership comments subsequent to the release of the HITECH Final Rule, suggest that the agency's focus will be on Security Rule compliance (specifically with regard to the whether a regulated entity has conducted a Security Rule Risk Assessment), the lack of overall HIPAA compliance that may lead to a breach (as opposed to the breach itself), and issues involving marketing or the sale of Protected Health Information. Covered entities and business associates should expect OCR enforcement, including audits, to continue to increase over the next year.… Continue Reading

The HITECH Final Rule: The New Privacy/Security Rules of the Road Have Finally Arrived

On January 25, 2013, the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Health and Human Services published the long-awaited final regulation implementing much of the amendments and additions to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Breach Notification, and Enforcement Rules directed by the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act ("HITECH Act"). Noteworthy provisions of the HITECH Final Rule include: - Making Business Associates directly liable for compliance with certain requirements of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules; - Converting subcontractors of Business Associates that create, receive, maintain, or transmit PHI on behalf of the Business Associate into Business Associates themselves; - Requiring authorizations for all treatment and health care operations communications where the Covered Entity receives financial remuneration for making the communications from a third party whose product or service is being marketed; - Replacing the Breach Notification Rule's "harm" threshold with a presumption that an impermissible use or disclosure of PHI is a Breach unless the Covered Entity or Business Associate demonstrates that there is a low probability that the PHI has been compromised; and - Mandating compliance by Covered Entities and Business Associates with applicable requirements by September 23, 2013.… Continue Reading

It’s Here: OCR Releases Long Awaited HIPAA/HITECH Final Rule

The Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") of the Department of Health and Human Services released today the long awaited, and much anticipated, omnibus final rule modifying the HIPAA Privacy, Security, Breach and Enforcement Rules. The final rule, which implements the statutory requirements of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act ("HITECH") and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act ("GINA"), is comprised of four final rules and addresses the July 2010 HITECH proposed rule, the Breach Notification and Enforcement interim final rules, as well as the October 2009 GINA proposed rule (collectively, the "HITECH Final Rule"). Notably, the HITECH Final Rule does not address the May 2011 proposed accounting and access report rule.… Continue Reading

OCR Continues Increased Focus on Enforcement, Announces First HIPAA Breach Settlement Involving Less than 500 Individuals

On January 2, 2013, the HHS Office for Civil Rights ("OCR") announced its first settlement and corrective action plan following a breach affecting fewer than 500 individuals. The Hospice of North Idaho ("HONI") has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule following the theft of an unencrypted laptop containing electronic Protected Health Information ("ePHI") for 441 patients. Significantly, this is the third settlement in six months involving unencrypted portable devices.… Continue Reading

Preparing for the HITECH Final Rule Release: HURRY UP AND WAIT!

It has been almost two and half years since the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights ("OCR"), published a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement the statutory requirements of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act ("HITECH") and amend the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, and almost nine months since the final rule was submitted to the Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") for final regulatory clearance. While industry speculation, fueled by comments made by Leon Rodriguez, the Director of OCR, at the annual Safeguarding Health Information: Building Assurance through HIPAA Security Conference, suggested that an omnibus final rule would be released by the end of summer, OMB had different ideas.… Continue Reading

OCR Releases Overdue Guidance on De-identifying Protected Health Information

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released guidance on Monday, November 26, 2012, regarding methods to de-identify protected health information in compliance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. This guidance, which followed a June 2012 Government Accountability Office Report criticizing the delayed publication of this and related guidance, is aimed to assist covered entities and business associates in understanding what de-identification is and how de-identified information is created.… Continue Reading
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