Skip to content

Office for Civil Rights

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

Continuing with its previous enforcement actions centered on covered entities’ failure to provide patients with access to their health records, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on October 9, 2020 that it entered into a settlement with Dignity Health, doing business as St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix (St. Joseph’s) for $160,000 for failing to respond to multiple requests of a mother for her son’s records.
Continue Reading Dignity Health Settles with OCR for $160,000 for Failing to Provide Access to Records

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced yesterday that it has settled five investigations in its HIPAA Rights to Access Initiative (Initiative), which it announced would be an enforcement priority for it starting in 2019. The Initiative is “to support individuals’ right to timely access to their health records at a reasonable cost under the HIPAA Privacy Rule.”

The addition of the five recent settlements brings the total to seven for OCR’s enforcement of the Initiative. The OCR’s press release states that the recent settlement involve five entities: Housing Works, Inc., All Inclusive Medical Services, Inc., Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Sciences and King MD.
Continue Reading OCR Settles Five Investigations Under Right of Access Initiative

On June 12, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued timely HIPAA guidance (Guidance) regarding solicitations of blood and plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients.

In the Guidance, OCR affirms that health care providers can use patient information to identify patients that have recovered from COVID-19 to provide information about how they may donate plasma or blood with COVID-19 antibodies to support treatment of other patients with COVID-19. OCR explains that this use of protected health information would be permissible as part of a provider’s health care operations to enable case management of COVID-19 patient populations. OCR also reminds providers that because the activity is a health care operation and not for treatment purposes, HIPAA’s minimum necessary standard applies to any use or disclosure of protected health information in connection with the solicitation of blood or plasma donations.
Continue Reading HHS Issues Guidance for Providers on Soliciting COVID-19 Blood and Plasma Donations

On April 9, 2020 the Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued another Notification that it will exercise its enforcement discretion and not impose penalties for HIPAA violations in connection with good faith participation in the operation of COVID-19 testing sites during the COVID-19 emergency.
Continue Reading HHS Waives HIPAA Penalties for Operation of a Community-Based COVID-19 Testing Site

On March 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued new HIPAA guidance to help providers and first responders in efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading OCR Issues Additional Guidance on HIPAA for Providers and First Responders on COVID-19 Front Lines

On March 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued additional guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on HIPAA and telehealth services to help providers furnish care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAQs follow and provide further information on the Notification of Enforcement Discretion issued by HHS on March 17 (Notification), in which HHS indicated that it would not penalize providers for using popular video chat applications, such as FaceTime and Skype, in good faith to provide telehealth services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  HHS has emphasized, however, that the Notification does not allow the use of public-facing communications products, such as Facebook live or other livestreaming applications.
Continue Reading COVID-19: HHS Issues FAQs on HIPAA and Telehealth to Help Providers Maintain Access to Care During the Pandemic

On September 9, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it had settled its first ever HIPAA enforcement action arising from alleged violations of the individual right to access health information under HIPAA. OCR entered into a settlement with Bayfront Health St. Petersburg (Bayfront) in response

On December 14, 2018 the Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published a Request for Information (RFI) soliciting public input on updates to regulations promulgated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) with the goals of removing “regulatory obstacles” and decreasing “regulatory burdens” in furtherance of the health care industry’s transition to value-based care models.

In the RFI, OCR requests input on whether and how the HIPAA regulations (i) can be modified to remove regulatory obstacles and burdens to efficient care coordination and case management, (ii) may inhibit the transformation to a value-based health care system, and (iii) may be modified to facilitate efficient care coordination and case management, and promote the transformation to value-based care. OCR also solicits comment on four specific proposals for modifying the HIPAA regulations to accomplish some of its stated goals:
Continue Reading OCR Issues Request for Information Regarding Modification of HIPAA To Promote Care Coordination and Transition to Value-Based Care