Tag Archives: OCR

HHS Issues Cloud Computing Guidance Which Is Helpful To All Users of Cloud Services

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) provided guidance for HIPAA covered entities and business associates that use or want to use cloud computing services involving protected health information (PHI). Covered entities and business associates seeking cloud services often have many concerns regarding HIPAA compliance, and this guidance … Continue Reading

Smaller HIPAA Breaches To Get More Attention by Office for Civil Rights

The HIPAA breach notification rule has two buckets for classifying data breaches – those that involve “protected health information” (PHI) of 500 or more individuals and those that involve fewer than 500 individuals. Since the breach notification rule became effective, the Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) focus has been on the 500 and over bucket. But … Continue Reading

HIPAA and $15 Million in 2016

For years, many questioned whether the HIPAA privacy and security rules would be enforced. The agency responsible for enforcement, Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), promised it would enforce the rules, but just after a period “soft” enforcement and compliance assistance. That period appears to be ending. During the first seven months … Continue Reading

Check Your Spam Filter, You Might Have Been Selected for a HIPAA Audit!

Yesterday, the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced Phase 2 of its HIPAA Audit Program (Program). In its announcement, the OCR reports that the Program is underway and provides some helpful FAQs for covered entities and business associates about the Program. Preparation is critical and there are some key points covered entities and business … Continue Reading

HIPAA Covered Entities Not Responsible For Intercepted Transmission of PHI When Individual Requested Unsecured Transmission, Office for Civil Rights Concludes

Earlier this month, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance on an individual’s right to access the individual’s health information. That an individual has a broad right to access has been recognized in the HIPAA privacy regulations since they became effective in 2003. OCR has found, however, that individuals are facing obstacles to accessing their … Continue Reading

Million Dollar HIPAA Settlements Are About Compliance, Not Harm to Individuals

In the last two weeks, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced two substantial settlements under HIPAA that together totaled $4.35 million. These large amounts seem to be driven not by actual harm to individuals, but in significant part by alleged HIPAA compliance failures identified by OCR following investigations commenced in response to receipt of data … Continue Reading

HIPAA Phase 2 Audits to Start in Early 2016, OCR States In Response to OIG Recommendations

Responding to a Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) report recommending stronger oversight of covered entities’ compliance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) stated that in early 2016 it will launch Phase 2 of its audit program measuring compliance with HIPAA’s privacy, security and breach … Continue Reading

HIPAA Audits Maybe, But Audit Preparedness Definitely!

According to a Bloomberg article, the second phase of HIPAA audits by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), originally set to commence in 2014, may be coming soon. This update came at a HIPAA conference co-hosted by OCR during which OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels said the agency was in the process of confirming contact information of … Continue Reading

Cancer Care Group to Pay $750,000 to Settle HIPAA Breach, as KPMG Finds 81 Percent of Hospitals and Health Insurance Companies had a Breach in the Past Two Years

On September 2, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reported that it agreed to settle potential violations of the HIPAA privacy and security regulations with Cancer Care Group, Inc. The dollar amount of the settlement, $750,000, is significant, and the agreement to adopt a robust, multi-year corrective action plan under the watchful eye of the … Continue Reading

OCR Issues Ebola Guidance on HIPAA Privacy

According to the New York Times, Bellevue Hospital Center patient Craig Spencer, the first New Yorker to be infected with Ebola, is scheduled to be released today. And while the intense reporting about Ebola has subsided, perhaps indicating a lowering of the perceived threat of Ebola spreading further in the U.S. (although many continue to … Continue Reading

HIPAA Privacy Rule Also Affected By Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision in U.S. v. Windsor

When the U.S. Supreme Court decided United States v. Windsor, it declared section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. For many companies, the decision meant changes to certain of their employee benefit plans, as well as the tax treatment of employee contributions for same sex spouses. However, declaring section 3 of … Continue Reading

HIPAA Reminders – Business Associate Agreement Deadline and Continuation of OCR Audits

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to a great group at the Connecticut Assisted Living Association (CALA) about HIPAA and a range of related practical issues. Many covered entities and business associates, particularly those that are small businesses, continue to work on understanding the privacy and security standards, and how to best apply them in their … Continue Reading

Prepare For Increased HIPAA Fines

Since mid-2013, the Department of Health and Human Services has recovered more than $10 million from numerous entities in connection with alleged violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”).  However, during a recent American Bar Association conference, Jerome B. Meites, a chief regional civil rights counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) … Continue Reading

OCR Provides HIPAA “Lessons Learned” In Data Breach Report to Congress

An Office for Civil Rights (OCR) report issued this month reveals some interesting details about data breach activity under HIPAA, as well as some helpful reminders and recommendations for covered entities and business associates. Section 13402(i) of the HITECH Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit a report to various Senate … Continue Reading

Cities And Counties Are Not Immune From HIPAA Enforcement, Skagit County, WA Pays $215,000

Skagit County, Washington, has agreed to settle potential violations of the privacy and security rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), according to an announcement by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on Friday.  OCR reported that Skagit County, home to approximately 118,000 residents, agreed to a $215,000 monetary settlement and to comply … Continue Reading

HHS to Conduct Survey About Which HIPAA Covered Entities and Business Associates Should Be Audited

The Department of Health and Human Services announced on February 24 that it is seeking information about conducting a pre-audit survey. That is, it plans to conduct a “survey of up to 1200 [HIPAA] covered entities (health plans, health care clearinghouses, and certain health care providers) and business associates (entities that provider certain services to … Continue Reading

Puerto Rico Gets Serious About HIPAA – $6.8 million in penalties connected to data breach

Ricardo Rivera Cardona of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration, intending to send a message by imposing the largest penalty to date ($6.8 million) arising out of a breach of protected health information under HIPAA, as reported by Infomation Security Media Group, is quoted as saying: We are sending a message that we are here to … Continue Reading

OCR Responds To Critical OIG Report About the Extent of OCR’s HIPAA Enforcement

A report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) concludes that the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) did not meet all of its federal requirements for oversight and enforcement of the HIPAA Security Rule. While the report noted OCR met some of these requirements, it also found that: … Continue Reading

Health Care Providers May Disclose PHI to Avert Threats to Health and Safety, HHS Letter Confirms

Following the mass shootings in Newtown, CT, and Aurora, CO, Office for Civil Rights Director Leon Rodriguez issued a letter on January 15, 2013, reminding covered health care providers about disclosures of protected health information that may be made to avert threats to health and safety. The letter points out, for example, that mental health professionals … Continue Reading

Start 2013 On The Right Foot – Assess Your Organization’s Information Risk

The $50,000 in penalties that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently imposed on a health care provider in Idaho was due in part to allegations that the HIPAA covered entity had not conducted a risk assessment as required under the HIPAA privacy and security regulations. Of course, HIPAA is not the only law that requires a risk assessment. … Continue Reading