On June 16, and then on July 6, 2021, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed into law a pair of bills that together address privacy and cybersecurity in the state. As cybersecurity risks continue to pose a significant threat to businesses and the integrity of private information, Connecticut joins other states in revisiting its data breach reporting laws to strengthen reporting requirements, and offer protection to businesses that have been the subject of a breach despite implementing cybersecurity safeguards from certain damages in resulting litigation.

Public Act 21-59 “An Act Concerning Data Privacy Breaches” (PA 21-59) modifies Connecticut law addressing data privacy breaches to expand the types of information that are protected in the event of a breach, to shorten the timeframe for reporting a breach, to clarify applicability of the law to anyone who owns, licenses, or maintains computerized data that includes “personal information,” and to create an exception for entities that report breaches in accordance with HIPAA. Public Act 21-119 “An Act Incentivizing the Adoption of Cybersecurity Standards for Businesses” (PA 21-119) correspondingly establishes statutory protection from punitive damages in a tort action alleging that inadequate cybersecurity controls resulted in a data breach against an entity covered by the law if the entity maintained a written cybersecurity program conforming to industry standards (as set forth in PA 21-119).

Both laws take effect October 1, 2021.
Continue Reading Connecticut Enacts Legislation to Incentivize Adoption of Cybersecurity Safeguards and Expand Breach Reporting Obligations

Last week, Diabetes, Endocrinology & Lipidology Center Inc. (DELC) of West Virginia reached a $5,000 settlement with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) over  allegations that it failed to provide timely access to a patient’s health records. The OCR alleged that DELC waited more than two years to send a minor’s medical records to their

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) last week announced a settlement with Peachstate Health Management LLC (aka AEON Clinical Laboratories) following a compliance review that uncovered alleged violations of HIPAA.

The settlement includes a $25,000 payment to OCR by Peachstate, a corrective action plan, and three years of monitoring by OCR.
Continue Reading OCR Announces Settlement with Clinical Lab for Alleged HIPAA Violations

On March 14, 2021, Connecticut Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 10C (EO 10C), which extends provisions of Public Act 20-2 (PA 20-2), a law passed by the Connecticut legislature in July 2020 that “provided additional flexibility for the delivery of telehealth services and insurance coverage of these services” but was scheduled to expire March 15, 2021. As a result of EO 10C, the provisions of PA 20-2 that were scheduled to expire on March 15 will remain in effect through April 20, 2021, in part to give the state legislature more time to “address the ongoing need for” expanded access to telehealth services.
Continue Reading Connecticut Extends Expansion of Access to Telehealth Services

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced that it had entered into a Resolution Agreement, Corrective Action Plan, and settlement with Lifetime Healthcare, Inc., the parent of Excellus Health Plan, over alleged violations of HIPAA relating to a data breach that occurred from December 23, 2013 through May 11, 2015. During that time, a cybercriminal obtained access to its IT systems and installed malware that allowed the intruder to obtain access to the protected health information of more than 9.3 million individuals.
Continue Reading Excellus Health Plan Pays $5.1M to OCR in Settlement Following Data Breach

On January 14, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned a $4.348 million penalty for alleged HIPAA violations assessed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) against the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (Hospital). The case arises from an enforcement action undertaken by HHS following the Hospital’s self-disclosure of three separate instances of lost or stolen portable devices containing electronic protected health information (ePHI). The government’s investigation determined that the devices were not encrypted, and that the Hospital’s failure to encrypt the devices to protect the ePHI contained therein constituted a violation of HIPAA’s Privacy and Security Rules. After HHS imposed the penalty in 2017, the Hospital appealed the penalty first to an Administrative Law Judge, and then to HHS’s Departmental Appeals Board before petitioning the Fifth Circuit for review in 2019 (see our prior analyses of this case here).
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Overturns “Arbitrary and Capricious” $4.3 Million HIPAA Penalty Against Hospital

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a notice yesterday stating that it will not impose penalties for HIPAA non-compliance in connection with a covered entity health care provider’s or business associate’s good faith use of online or web-based scheduling applications (WBSAs) for the scheduling of appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations during the public health emergency.  The notice is retroactively effective to December 11, 2020. OCR highlights to covered health care providers and business associates that its temporary lifting of HIPAA penalties applies only to scheduling of COVID-19 vaccinations and to no other activities.
Continue Reading OCR Announces it Will Not Impose HIPAA Penalties for Use of COVID-19 Vaccine Scheduling Apps

On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced proposed changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, which is one of several rules that protect the privacy and security of individuals’ medical records and other protected health information (PHI). According to HHS, the proposed changes are intended to support individuals’ engagement in their health care, remove barriers to coordinated care and case management, and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry, while continuing to protect the privacy and security of individuals’ PHI.
Continue Reading HHS Proposes Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to Enhance Care Coordination and Management and Remove Barriers to Accessing Information

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently settled a tenth case under its right-to-access initiative with California-based Riverside Psychiatric Medical Group (RPMG), for $25,000.

Although a relatively small settlement in the amount paid, it shows that the OCR is taking patients’ requests for access to their medical records seriously, and that no complaint is too small to investigate and enforce.
Continue Reading OCR’s Tenth Right to Access Settlement Is Small but Meaningful

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a press release on November 12, 2020, announcing that it had settled its eleventh enforcement action in its HIPAA Right-of-Access Initiative. The settlement with Dr. Rajendra Bhayani, an otolaryngologist (ENT) practicing in Regal Park, New York, included a payment of $15,000, a corrective action plan and two years of monitoring by the OCR.
Continue Reading OCR Settles Another Right-of-Access Initiative Case