On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released a proposed rule (the Proposed Rule) that would make a number of key changes to the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (collectively, HIPAA). HHS stated that the Proposed Rule is intended to reduce burdens that may limit or discourage care coordination and case management communications among individuals and HIPAA-covered entities while continuing to protect the privacy of individuals. The proposed changes are designed to lead to increased data access, sharing, and portability and to further HHS’s emphasis on patients’ right of information access, which has been highlighted through a series of enforcement actions in 2020. If enacted as proposed, the amendments would require healthcare providers and electronic health records (EHR) vendors to update policies and disclosures related to information access and perhaps even to redesign certain EHR processes. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
In almost the first three quarters of 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has settled three cases related to alleged violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), totaling $1,165,000. These settlements underscore OCR’s continued focus on enforcement of the HIPAA Security Rule.
On July 13, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (“SAMHSA”) announced final revisions to the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulation codified at 42 CFR Part 2 (so-called “Part 2” regulations). These regulations—which apply to certain information relating to patients being treated for substance use disorders (“SUDs”)—impose restrictions above and beyond those in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). While the final rule does not fundamentally change the basic requirements of the Part 2 regulations, it relaxes some of the restrictions the regulations impose on holders of Part 2 information, in particular, to facilitate care coordination.
This week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took action to waive penalties and refrain from enforcing certain federal health information privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in response to COVID-19.
In an effort to reduce barriers to coordination of care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) is considering changes to Federal restrictions on the sharing of substance use disorder (“SUD”) records. The proposed changes would modify 42 C.F.R. Part 2 (“Part 2”) regulations that place restrictive conditions on the disclosure of SUD patient records—limitations that go above and beyond Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) restrictions.
The barriers imposed by these rules—which have been in place since the 1970s—have become the focus of particular attention in light of the opioid crisis, as members of Congress and other stakeholders have raised concerns about how the Part 2 statute and implementing regulations may inhibit efforts to respond and coordinate care. Members of Congress have called for reform, but have been unsuccessful at seeking legislative fixes thus far.
New Annual HIPAA Penalty Tiers
Six months after imposing the largest ever HIPAA fine ($16 million) following a HIPAA data breach, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has announced that it is exercising its enforcement discretion to lower maximum annual HIPAA penalties.
On December 3, 2018, twelve attorneys general (“AGs”) jointly filed a data breach lawsuit against Medical Informatics Engineering and its subsidiary, NoMoreClipboard LLC (collectively “the Company”), an electronic health records company, in federal district court in Indiana. See Indiana v. Med. Informatics Eng’g, Inc., No. 3:18-cv-00969 (N.D. Ind. filed Dec. 3, 2018). The suit—led by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill—is joined by AGs from Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina and Wisconsin. While state AGs have previously exercised their civil enforcement authorities under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), this is the first multi-state data breach lawsuit alleging HIPAA violations in federal court and may signal increased interest on the part of state officials in exercising their data protection authorities to address cybersecurity incidents.
On December 14, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published in the Federal Register a request for information (RFI) titled “Modifying HIPAA Rules to Improve Coordinated Care.” The RFI seeks public input on a broad range of potential reforms to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations with a focus on enhancing care coordination. Though only a preliminary step on the path to potential regulatory reform, the RFI’s scope is significant, as is the opportunity it affords stakeholders interested in sharing early input as HHS considers reforms to key health information privacy requirements. (more…)
The Administration is preparing to release a Request for Information (“RFI”) on potential modifications to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules. The draft RFI was recently submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) for pre-release review.
* This article originally appeared in Law360 on September 27, 2018.