Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

Following a very quiet start to HIPAA settlement activity in 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced eight settlements with covered entities and business associates.

The most recent of these announcements involves the second-largest HIPAA settlement amount in OCR’s history, amounting to $6.85 million.

With the ongoing covid crisis leaving businesses of all sizes concerned about the short and medium term future, the intimidating task of considering a liquidation or restructuring is inevitably starting to become a reality.  Although privacy in the bankruptcy context is nothing new—especially in the context of personally identifiable information (“PII”) held by a company—it

Health care providers, health plans, and others who are subject to HIPAA are sure to have questions about when they may disclose information about individuals who have contracted, or been exposed to, Coronavirus (COVID-19).

To address these questions, the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has issued guidance.  First, it

Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may yet announce one or two year-end settlements, it appears that 2019 will be known more for the implementation of changes in HIPAA enforcement policy than for any of the particular matters that OCR resolved.  Last April, OCR announced that

Following on the heels of a few relatively small HIPAA settlements, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has imposed $2,154,000 in civil monetary penalties against Jackson Health System in Florida for its failure to meet HIPAA privacy and security requirements.  The OCR announcement and accompanying

The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (OCR) announced that it has entered into a settlement with a business associate that provides electronic medical records services to health care providers.  The resolution agreement requires Medical Informatics Engineering, Inc. (MIE) to pay $100,000 and adhere to a corrective action plan. 

After a quiet winter, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) revived with the spring, issuing a set of frequently asked questions and two recent announcements.

The FAQs address the situation where an individual requests a covered entity to disclose protected health information (“PHI”) to an app. The covered entity

On February 7, 2019, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published the resolution agreement for its final HIPAA settlement of 2018.  The resolution agreement cited two breach notifications that OCR received from the parent of several hospitals in California.  In 2013, the provider notified OCR of a breach that occurred when one of its contractors removed electronic security protections from a server.  This breach affected more than 50,000 individuals.  In 2015, the provider submitted notice of a second breach, this one resulting from an employee’s activation of the wrong website, affecting more than 11,000 individuals.
Continue Reading OCR Closes the Book on 2018 With $3 Million HIPAA Settlement

A relatively quiet year for HIPAA enforcement is ending with a small flourish.  The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced two settlements with covered entities within the span of eight days.

The first settlement involved Advanced Care Hospitalists (ACH), a company that provides internal medicine physicians to hospitals and nursing homes in Florida.  In 2014, ACH received notice from a local hospital that individually identifiable patient information had been posted on the website of a third party billing provider.  ACH reported the breach, which ultimately led to an HHS investigation. HHS found that:

  • The disclosure affected 9,225 patients.
  • ACH failed to enter into a business associate agreement with one or more vendors who had access to protected health information (PHI).
  • ACH did not implement privacy, security, or breach notification policies and procedures until after the breach was discovered.
  • ACH failed to conduct a security risk analysis until after the breach was discovered.

To settle these matters, ACH agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty and fulfill its obligations under a supervised corrective action plan that focuses on the identified failures.

The second settlement followed from a complaint lodged with HHS against Pagosa Springs Medical Center (PSMC) in Colorado.   The ensuing investigation revealed:

  • The impermissible disclosure of the PHI of at least 557 individuals to a former employee whose access to PSMC’s information systems was not revoked upon termination of employment.
  • The impermissible disclosure of the PHI of at least 557 individuals to a business associate without an appropriate business associate agreement.


Continue Reading A Pair of Year-End HIPAA Settlements

The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services has announced settlements with three different Boston-area hospitals for allegedly compromising the privacy of protected health information by inviting documentary film crews on premises without first obtaining patient authorization.  The three settlements call for a total of almost $1 million in penalty payments and require each of the hospitals to undertake corrective action.  The corrections are not the same for each hospital and range from workforce education and communication to the establishment of specific procedures, for example, for deciding when to allow media access and for putting safeguards in place to monitor film crew activity.
Continue Reading Beware the Bright Lights