The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) recently published two advance notices of proposed rulemaking that address the accounting of disclosures and the potential distribution of civil monetary penalties to affected individuals.
On February 13, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced that it entered into a resolution agreement with the receiver appointed to liquidate the assets of Filefax, Inc. (“Filefax”) in order to settle potential violations of HIPAA. Filefax offered medical record storage, maintenance and delivery services for covered entities, and had gone out of business during the course of OCR’s investigation. Continue Reading Unsecured PHI Leads to OCR Settlement with Closed Business
On February 1, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced a settlement with dialysis clinic operator, Fresenius Medical Care (“Fresenius”). Fresenius will pay OCR $3.5 million to settle claims brought under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules, alleging that lax security practices led to five breaches of electronic protected health information. Continue Reading HHS Announces $3.5 Million Settlement with Fresenius Medical Care
On January 23, 2018, the New York Attorney General announced that Aetna Inc. (“Aetna”) agreed to pay $1.15 million and enhance its privacy practices following an investigation alleging it risked revealing the HIV status of 2,460 New York residents by mailing them information in transparent window envelopes. In July 2017, Aetna sent HIV patients information on how to fill their prescriptions using envelopes with large clear plastic windows, through which patient names, addresses, claims numbers and medication instructions were visible. Through this, the HIV status of some patients was visible to third parties. The letters were sent to notify members of a class action lawsuit that, pursuant to that suit’s resolution, they could purchase HIV medications at physical pharmacy locations, rather than via mail order delivery. Continue Reading Aetna Agrees to $1.15 Million Settlement with New York Attorney General
As reported in BNA Privacy Law Watch, on December 6, 2017, health care provider 21st Century Oncology agreed to pay $2.3 million to settle charges by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (“HHS”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) that its security practices led to a data breach involving patient information. The settlement was made public in the company’s December 6, 2017, bankruptcy filing. The HHS charges stemmed from a 2015 data breach involving the compromise of Social Security numbers, medical diagnoses and health insurance information of at least 2.2 million patients. OCR found that 21st Century Oncology failed to perform risk assessments on its systems or implement effective security protocols to protect patient information. As part of the settlement, 21st Century Oncology did not admit liability but did agree, in addition to the $2.3 million payment, to undertake a revision of its information security policies and procedures and to implement certain information security measures, including risk assessments.
On October 3, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued an announcement clarifying when protected health information (“PHI”) can be shared with family, friends and others. This announcement, prompted by the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, outlines the purposes for which PHI can be disclosed to these parties pursuant to HIPAA and the conditions that apply, which are summarized below: Continue Reading OCR Issues Guidance on Disclosures to Family, Friends and Others
On September 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued an announcement containing disaster preparedness and recovery guidance in advance of Hurricane Irma. The announcement follows a bulletin issued in late August during Hurricane Harvey that addressed how protected health information (“PHI”) can be shared during emergencies. Together, these communications underscore key privacy and security issues for entities covered by HIPAA to help them protect individuals’ health information before, during and after emergency situations. Continue Reading OCR Releases Guidance on HIPAA Compliance During Emergencies
On September 5, 2017, the FTC announced that Lenovo, Inc. (“Lenovo”) agreed to settle charges that its preloaded software on some laptop computers compromised online security protections in order to deliver advertisements to consumers. The settlement agreement (the “Settlement”) is between Lenovo, the FTC and 32 State Attorneys General. Continue Reading FTC Announces Settlement with Lenovo Regarding Preinstalled Laptop Software
On August 25, 2017, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh signed an order granting preliminary approval of the record class action settlement agreed to by Anthem Inc. this past June. The settlement arose out of a 2015 data breach that exposed the personal information of more than 78 million individuals, including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and health care ID numbers. The terms of the settlement include, among other things, the creation of a pool of funds to provide credit monitoring and reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs for customers, as well as up to $38 million in attorneys’ fees. Anthem will also be required to make certain changes to its data security systems and cybersecurity practices for at least three years. Continue Reading Record Breach Settlement in Anthem Class Action Receives Judge Approval
On August 1, 2017, a unanimous three-judge panel for the D.C. Circuit reversed the dismissal of a putative data breach class action against health insurer CareFirst, Attias v. CareFirst, Inc., No. 16-7108, slip op. (D.C. Cir. Aug. 1, 2017), finding the risk of future injury was not too speculative to establish injury in fact under Article III. Continue Reading D.C. Circuit’s Article III Standing Decision Deepens Appellate Disagreement