Entities that provide treatment to patients with substance use disorders may find some clarity on federal requirements surrounding patient record confidentiality. The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently announced much-anticipated proposed changes to the federal regulations at 42 C.F.R. part 2 (Part 2), which govern … Continue Reading
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a new set of HIPAA FAQs addressing the applicability of HIPAA to certain health apps and the covered entities and business associates that interact with them. These FAQs build upon prior guidance from OCR that outlined the framework for evaluating whether a … Continue Reading
FDA recently released guidance (“Manufacturers Sharing Patient-Specific Information from Medical Devices with Patients Upon Request”) finalizing its policy on medical device manufacturers sharing patient-specific information from devices with patients at the patients’ request. In response to the more active roles patients are playing in their health care, and increased frequency with which patients are seeking … Continue Reading
Two separate instances of unencrypted laptop theft from different health care providers have resulted in two settlements for potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. These alleged violations were uncovered following investigations by the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR). In the first instance, involving Concentra Health Services, OCR found that Concentra had previously recognized its need for increased encryption on its technological devices but had failed to fully address this issue before the breach. In the second instance, involving QCA Health Plan, Inc. of Arkansas, OCR found that QCA had failed to comply with multiple requirements set forth by the HIPAA Security Rule. Both instances resulted in settlements comprised of financial payments to OCR as well as agreement to Corrective Action Plans that will allow for continued oversight by OCR in regards to HIPAA compliance.… Continue Reading
On March 7, 2014, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced its first settlement and corrective action plan with a county government. Skagit County in northwest Washington State has agreed to pay $215,000 to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules. According to Susan McAndrew, deputy director of health … Continue Reading
On February 6, 2014, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Office for Civil Rights jointly published a final rule amending the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 regulations to provide patients with direct access to laboratory test reports. HHS believes that patients should have the right to access these test reports in order to gain vital information, allowing them to better manage their health and take action to prevent and control disease. The amendments to both regulations become effective April 7, 2014, and HIPAA-covered laboratories must comply by October 6, 2014.… Continue Reading
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
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
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
The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) is seeking comments on a proposal to amend the HIPAA Privacy Rule to expressly permit covered entities to disclose certain mental health information to the National Instant Background Check System (NICS), the federal government’s background check system for the sale or transfer of firearms by licensed dealers. … Continue Reading
In preparation for data collection to begin under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act Final Rule on August 1, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released yesterday the list of teaching hospital covered recipients to which payments and other transfers of value must be reported by applicable drug and device manufacturers. The list, … Continue Reading
This post was also written by Zachary A. Portin. On April 9, 2013, the Eleventh Circuit held that HIPAA preempts a Florida statute that requires nursing homes to release medical records of deceased residents to their spouses, attorneys-in-fact and other enumerated parties who request them. In Opis Management Resources LLC v. Secretary Florida Agency for … Continue Reading
This post was also written by Zachary A. Portin. Can a medical corporation be directly liable under New York law for breaching its common law fiduciary duty of confidentiality when a non-physician employee acted outside the scope of his or her employment by making an unauthorized disclosure of an individual’s confidential health information? This is … Continue Reading
On February 1, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the long-awaited Final Rule to implement the “Sunshine” provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). The Sunshine provisions – intended to provide increased transparency on the scope and nature of financial … Continue Reading
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
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
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
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
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
On Wednesday, November 21, 2012, Massachusetts' Public Health Council ("Council") approved amendments to the State's Marketing Code of Conduct, which restricts certain gifts and payments by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to Massachusetts health care practitioners ("HCPs") and requires disclosure of payments and transfers of value to HCPs. The final regulations, effective as of December 7, 2012, primarily adopt the emergency regulations issued by the State in September but make a few substantive changes.… Continue Reading
On September 19, 2012, the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved emergency amendments to the State's Marketing Code of Conduct regulations, 105 CMR 970.000, which restrict certain gifts and payments by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers to Massachusetts health care practitioners ("HCPs") and require disclosure of payments and transfers of value to HCPs. The regulations, effective as of September 19, 2012, follow amendments to the underlying statute, Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 111N, signed into law in July by Governor Deval Patrick as part of the FY2013 State Budget.… 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