HIPAA

On February 16, 2024, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) published a final rule to amend the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder (“SUD”) Patient Records regulations (“Part 2”) to more closely align Part 2 with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended, and its implementing regulations (collectively, “HIPAA”) as required by Section 3221 of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”).  We previously covered the proposed rule (hereinafter, “the NPRM”), which was issued on December 2, 2022.

The final rule, issued through the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (“SAMHSA”), increases alignment between certain Part 2 requirements and HIPAA and it clarifies certain existing Part 2 permissions and restrictions to improve the ability of entities to use and disclose Part 2 records. According to HHS, this final rule will decrease burdens on patients and providers, improve coordination of care and access to care and treatment, and protect the confidentiality of treatment records.Continue Reading HHS Publishes Final Rule to Align Part 2 and HIPAA

On September 15, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced an updated joint publication describing the privacy and security laws and rules that impact consumer health data.  Specifically, the “Collecting, Using, or Sharing Consumer Health Information? Look to HIPAA, the FTC Act, and the Health Breach Notification Rule” guidance provides an overview of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, as amended, and the implementing regulations issued by HHS (collectively “HIPAA”); the FTC Act; and the FTC’s Health Breach Notification Rule (“HBNR”) and how they may apply to businesses.  This joint guidance follows a recent surge of FTC enforcement in the health privacy space.  We offer a high level summary of the requirements flagged by the guidance.Continue Reading FTC and HHS Announce Updated Health Privacy Publication

On December 19, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) issued a proposed rule to adopt standards for certain electronic health transactions.  Specifically, the proposed rule would adopt standards for health care attachment transactions (e.g., medical charts, x-rays, provider notes) and electronic signatures to be used in conjunction with health care attachments, and modify the standard for referral certification and authorization transaction.  The proposed rule would apply to entities regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, as amended, and its implementing regulations (collectively, “HIPAA”), and would implement certain requirements of the Administrative Simplification subtitle of HIPAA and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) that require the Secretary of HHS to adopt and update standards for electronic health transactions, code sets, unique identifiers, as well as the electronic exchange for health information.Continue Reading HHS Proposes Rule to Improve Standards for Electronic Prior Authorizations and Other Transactions with Health Care Attachments

On December 2, 2022, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), through the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (“SAMHSA”), issued a proposed rule to implement statutory amendments enacted by Section 3221 of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”).  Specifically

On January 14, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit vacated a $4.3 million civil monetary penalty that the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) imposed against the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (“M.D. Anderson”).  OCR ordered the penalty in 2017 following an investigation into three data breaches suffered by M.D. Anderson in 2012 and 2013, finding that M.D. Anderson had violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) and the Health Information and Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH Act”).  The Court, however, held that the penalty was “arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise unlawful,” in part based on its interpretation of the HIPAA Rules.
Continue Reading M.D. Anderson Wins Appeal Over $4.3 Million HIPAA Penalty

On January 5, 2021, an amendment to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act was signed into law.  The amendment requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to “consider certain recognized security practices of covered entities and business associates when making certain determinations” regarding fines, audit results, or other remedies for resolving potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).  For organizations subject to HIPAA, the amendment provides substantial incentives to establish or improve their cybersecurity programs.  While it does not establish a complete safe harbor from HIPAA enforcement, the amendment does offer organizations a chance to mitigate financial penalties and other negative regulatory actions that may result from a data breach.
Continue Reading HITECH Amendment Provides Some Protection For Covered Entities and Business Associates that Adopt Recognized Security Standards

On December  10, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued a proposed rule to modify the Standards for the Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information (the “Privacy Rule”) promulgated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH Act”).  According to HHS’s announcement, the proposed rule would amend the Privacy Rule to “support individuals’ engagement in their care, remove barriers to coordinated care, and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry.”  Public comments on the proposed rule are currently being accepted through February 12, 2021.

The proposed rule is part of HHS’s Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care, initiated pursuant to Secretary Alex Azar’s value-based transformation agenda, which seeks to “promote value-based care by examining federal regulations that impede efforts among health care providers and health plans to better coordinate care for patients.”  Throughout the Privacy Rule, HHS sought to protect health information while also permitting information sharing for certain beneficial purposes.  However, stakeholders have questioned whether the Privacy Rule strikes the appropriate balance in certain situations.

Proposed modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule include strengthening individuals’ right to access their protected health information (“PHI”), including electronic PHI; facilitating greater family involvement in care for individuals dealing with health crises or emergencies; and allowing providers more flexibility to disclose PHI when harm to a patient is “serious and reasonably foreseeable,” such as during the opioid crisis or COVID-19 public health emergency.  Importantly, multiple provisions of the proposed rule, discussed in greater detail below, address electronic health records (“EHRs”) and personal health applications.Continue Reading HHS Announces Proposed Changes to HIPAA’s Privacy Rule

Throughout September, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), announced eight different settlements to resolve a variety of alleged violations of the Privacy and Security Rules promulgated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).  Notably, three settlements stem from data breaches in which hackers were able

In a new post on the Covington Inside Privacy blog, our colleagues discuss the passage of California’s AB 713, a bill that creates a new healthcare-related exemption under the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”) for certain information that has been deidentified in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of

On September 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced a new “Health Apps” feature on the HHS.gov website.  The new website, which replaces the OCR’s Health App Developer Portal, highlights existing guidance for mobile health (“mHealth”) apps regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act