HIPAA Journal published an article online this week regarding General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Compliance. Their article states that the goal of their short piece is to provide a checklist for companies or businesses who are concerned with GDPR compliance. Their list should permit such entities to take initial steps in order to comply with GDPR and to note that it is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, more so a few “rules of thumb” to take into account in order to get started.
For more information and to view the full article visit HIPAA Journal’s website here.
HIPAA Journal published an article online this week addressing client HIPAA violation complaints and whether or not health care providers are equipped to properly address these complaints. According to the article, in order for an efficient response to be conducted, policies should be developed covering the complaints procedure and staff must be trained to handle HIPAA privacy complaints correctly. Also, patients must also be clearly informed how they can make a HIPAA privacy complaint if they feel that their privacy has been violated or HIPAA Rules have been breached. This should be clearly stated in your Notice of Privacy Practices.
For more information and to view the full article visit HIPAA Journal’s website here.
This week Mondaq published an article online regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reminded health care providers of the importance of ensuring the availability and security of health information during and after natural disasters.
According to the article, OCR recently published a bulletin during Hurricane Harvey discussing how the HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to sharing protected health information (PHI) during natural disasters. Recirculated while Irma was looming, the guidance document reminds health care providers that HHS may waive sanctions and penalties against a covered hospital for certain activities (e.g., obtaining a patient’s agreement before speaking with family or friends involved in the patient’s care) during an emergency. However, the waiver is limited to certain hospitals located within an emergency area and for a specific period of time. More importantly, OCR noted in the bulletin that the Privacy Rule still applies to covered entities and their business associates during such emergencies, but the Privacy Rule does allow the disclosure of PHI without the patient’s consent for the patient’s treatment or public health activities. Covered entities may also share PHI with a patient’s family or friends identified by the patient as being involved in their care, but OCR recommends that the covered entities obtain verbal permission or otherwise confirm that the patient does not object to sharing the information with these individuals.
MSP Mentor recently posted an article stating a network of public health clinics in the Denver, Colorado have been fined $400,000 for HIPAA data breaches. The breaches occurred through phishing (aka email hacking), gaining electronic health records of over 3,000 patients.
“Investigators from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) found that MCPN violated the HIPAA Security Rule by failing to do proper risk assessments or implement adequate cybersecurity measures and procedures.” To view the entire article, visit here.
According to Patient Engagement HIT, American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) recently posted data guiding patients through the appropriate process of obtaining their medical records from their providers and navigating through HIPPA privacy regulations.
“Per HIPAA, patients may ask to view and obtain a copy of their health records, receive records in paper or electronic copies, and have records sent to another entity for treatment, billing, or operations purposes, explained Mary Butler, the author of the slideshow and associate editor of the Journal of AHIMA.
Patients can request medical record access at their practice’s health information management (HIM) department. They should come prepared with their photo ID and will be asked to sign a waiver verifying their identity.”
Good write-up by Varonis discussing the finalized regulatory rules for HIPAA:
What has changed
With the finalized rules (which by the way run over 500 pages) not only do business associates come under HIPAA, but a new class of consultants and subcontractors who perform workon behalf of the business associates also have HIPAA obligations.
In effect, the final rules say that any company that has access to e-PHI is treated just like a hospital or HMO. By the way, HIPAA/HITECH’s Breach Notification Rule, which originally required health companies and their business associates to report e-PHI disclosures, is now extended to medical data subcontractors as well.
The ultimate intent is to close off any holes in security and enforcement when the business associates themselves outsource data processing to others.
Excellent and detailed write-up of the new HIPAA rules that take effect on September 23, 2013:
On January 17, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued the highly anticipated omnibus final rule (the “Final Rule”) to modify the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) pursuant to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (“HITECH”). Following the enactment of HITECH, HHS issued interim final rules to implement the breach notification requirements and certain of the enforcement provisions of HITECH (collectively, the “Interim Rules”), and in July of 2010 HHS issued a proposed rule to implement modifications to the privacy and security provisions of HIPAA. Since that time, Covered Entities and their Business Associates and subcontractors have been awaiting the Final Rule to confirm the extent to which these modifications, which are aimed primarily at strengthening the privacy and security protections for protected health information (“PHI”) and tightening the HIPAA enforcement provisions, will impact their operations, contractual relationships and potential exposure for HIPAA liability.
With 2013 right around the corner, you should be aware of the following 10 items for your checklist to make sure you’re ready for the Affordable Health Care Act.
Effective in 2013:
The following list itemizes the changes that generally will become effective in 2013. The effective date depends upon a number of factors, including whether the health plan is grandfathered, the first day of the plan year, and the number of employees.
Women’s Preventive Health Care Mandates Applicable To: Non-grandfathered plans only Effective: Plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012 (January 1, 2013 for calendar year plan years) Details: Plans are required to provide in-network coverage with no cost sharing for preventive care such as coverage for contraceptives, contraceptive counseling, breastfeeding support, supplies and counseling, and screening for domestic violence.
Reduction in the Maximum Employee Contributions to a Health Flexible Spending Accounts Applicable To: Only health flexible spending accounts (generally offered under a cafeteria plan) Effective: January 1, 2013 for calendar year plan years Details: The maximum amount that an employee can contribute to a health flexible spending account on a pre-tax basis cannot exceed $2,500 per taxable year. While the reduced limit is effective January 1, 2013 (or the first day of the plan year beginning after January 1, 2013 for plans with fiscal years), employers have until December 31, 2014, to adopt amendments to reflect this reduced limit.
Annual Benefit Limits Applicable To: Health plans other than health flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement accounts, and medical savings accounts Effective: Generally only for the 2013 plan year (see below for changes in 2014) Details: The annual limit on the dollar value of essential health benefits cannot be less than $2 million.
Reporting the Cost of Group Health Insurance Coverage on Forms W-2 Applicable To: Employers that issued at least 250 Forms W-2 for 2012 (transition relief applies to exclude employers that issued fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for 2012, and certain types of plans) Effective: For the 2012 W-2s to be issued by January 31, 2013 Details: The Forms W-2 issued by employers in early 2013 must report the value of any health coverage provided to each employee in 2012, regardless of who pays the premium for that coverage. Employers should take steps to ensure that payroll departments or payroll providers are prepared for the new reporting requirement.
Summary of Benefits and Coverage and Notices of Material Modification Effective: For open enrollment periods beginning on or after September 23, 2012 and for plan years beginning after that date Details: Employer health plans must provide a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) to all plan participants, as well as to all employees who are eligible to participate. If the employer makes a mid-year change in the plan provisions that would change the terms of the SBC, the plan also must provide a Notice of Material Modifications at least 60 days before the change takes effect.
Additional Medicare Tax Withholding Effective: January 1, 2013 Details: An employer is required to withhold an additional 0.9% Medicare tax on an employee’s compensation in excess of $200,000. The additional tax does not have an employer matching requirement.
Notice of Exchange Availability Applicable To: Employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act Effective: Required by March 1, 2013 Details: Employers must provide a notice to employees concerning the availability of health coverage through the state-wide exchanges. The notices will explain some of the benefits and consequences to employees if they choose to purchase a qualified health plan through the state exchange instead of electing coverage under an employer-sponsored health plan. Employers are still waiting for additional guidance regarding these requirements, and some are predicting that this requirement may be postponed.
Taxation of the Retiree Drug Subsidy Effective: January 1, 2013 Details: Employers who were providing retirees with prescription drug coverage that was generous enough to qualify for a federal tax subsidy will no longer be allowed to deduct all of those expenses.
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Comparative Effectiveness Fee Applicable To: Plan sponsors maintaining a self-insured plan (insurers will pay this for fully-insured plans) Effective: First payment is due by July 31, 2013 Details: Plan sponsors must begin to pay a fee (the “PCORI Fee”) to the Internal Revenue Service per average covered life ($1 for the first year, $2 for the second year, and increased as permitted in future years) per plan using Form 720. These fees will be used to fund the new nonprofit corporation, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, to support clinical effective ness research. Some rules permit the limited aggregation of plans.
Certification of Compliance to Health and Human Services (HHS) Effective: By December 31, 2013 Details: Group health plans must file a certification statement with HHS certifying that their data and information systems for the plan are in compliance with the HIPAA standards and operating rules for health plan eligibility, electronic funds transfer, health claim status, health care payments, and remittance advice transactions.
The Obama administration has promised to be tougher when it comes to enforcing HIPAA laws. This week a Maryland health service company gained the dubious honor of being the first company or entity to be assessed a Department of Health and Human Services CMP – Civil Money Penalty. And with that penalty assessed at $4.3 million, obviously this should be a sign to all connected with HIPAA transactions that yes, this administration does mean business.
Cignet Health failed to honor the access to medical records requests of 41 of their patients between September 2008 and October of 2009. The company’s failure to cooperate with the subsequent investigation by HHS OCR (Office of Civil Rights) officials earned them another $3 million in fines at the end of the day. According to the official press release about the matter it was the HHS’s position that Cignet had displayed a willful neglect to the basic privacy rules laid down by HIPAA.
“Ensuring that Americans’ health information privacy is protected is vital to our health care system and a priority of this administration,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.