Department of Health and Human Services

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.

Continue Reading HHS Publishes Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking on Accounting of Disclosures and Civil Monetary Penalties

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

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

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) and the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force (the “Task Force”) have published important materials addressing cybersecurity in the health care industry.

Continue Reading OCR and Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force Publish Cybersecurity Materials

On May 10, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced a $2.4 million civil monetary penalty against Memorial Hermann Health System (“MHHS”) for alleged violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) Privacy Rule.  Continue Reading OCR Fines Texas Health System For Alleged HIPAA Privacy Rule Violation

On April 24, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) announced that it had entered into a resolution agreement with CardioNet, Inc. (“CardioNet”) stemming from gaps in policies and procedures uncovered after CardioNet reported breaches of unsecured electronic protected health information (“ePHI”). CardioNet provides patients with an ambulatory cardiac monitoring service, and the settlement is OCR’s first with a wireless health services provider. Continue Reading Wireless Provider Reaches $2.5 Million Settlement with OCR