Tag Archives: Office for Civil Rights

For First Time Ever, Government Brings HIPAA Enforcement Action Alleging Violations of Right to Access Medical Records

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 to allegations that it failed to provide a mother with timely access to medical records concerning her unborn child. Under the terms of a resolution agreement, Bayfront agreed to pay $85,000, and enter into a …

OCR Issues Request for Information Regarding Modification of HIPAA To Promote Care Coordination and Transition to Value-Based Care

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 …

Advanced Care Hospitalists Settles with OCR for $500,000  for Alleged HIPAA Violations

The Office for Civil Rights has announced that it has settled with Lakeland, Florida based Advanced Care Hospitalists (ACH) for $500,000 for allegations of an impermissible disclosure of protected health information by one of its business associates. ACH provides contract internal medicine physicians to nursing homes and hospitals.

According to the press release, between November 2011 and June 2012, ACH engaged an individual who claimed to be a representative of Doctor’s First Choice Billings, Inc., which provides medical billing services. Although the individual used First Choice’s website and company affiliation, …

Dumpster Diving Leads to $100,000 Fine for Defunct Business Associate Due to Improper Disposal of Medical Records

On February 13, 2018, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced a $100,000 settlement with a court-appointed receiver representing Filefax, Inc. (Filefax) arising from the 2015 discovery of medical records that contained protected health information (PHI) of over two thousand individuals in a dumpster. Filefax, a now-defunct medical records moving and storage company located in Illinois, acted as a business associate under HIPAA.

OCR initiated an investigation in February, 2015, after receiving an anonymous complaint concerning medical records that had been discovered and delivered to a facility for shredding …

OCR Issues Reminder on Security Incidents

Following the frequent and varied ransomware attacks on health care entities over the past few years, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published guidance last summer to the health care industry reminding it that a ransomware attack could be a reportable breach under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule. Despite the fact that many health care organizations were victims of ransomware attacks, the OCR commented that many of them did not report the incident or notify patients of the incident.…

Recent OCR Settlements

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced settlements with healthcare-related entities, including:

  • The OCR entered into a settlement with The Center for Children’s Digestive Health (CCDH) for $31,000.  CCDH is a small for-profit health care provider with seven locations in Illinois. The settlement arose out of an OCR compliance review initiated in August 2015 after an investigation of a CCDH business associate that stored inactive paper medical records for CCDH.  While CCDH had been disclosing PHI to the vendor since 2003, neither party could produce a business associate agreement

OCR Urges Covered Entities and Business Associates to Use HTTPS

New guidance from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) urges covered entities and business associates to use Secure Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTPS) to protect communications from vulnerabilities. According to OCR, the vulnerability can be introduced by the use of products that inspect HTTPS traffic. These products are used to detect malware or unsafe connections, which could allow an interception of the communication. These are called man-in-the-middle attacks.

The OCR advises that covered entities and business associates follow US-CERT guidelines and verify that their HTTPS inspection product validates certificate chains and …

Horizon BCBS of New Jersey Pays State $1.1 million for HIPAA violations

We often forget that state AG’s have jurisdiction under the HIPAA Omnibus Rule to levy fines and penalties against HIPAA covered entities for violations. This is because the Office for Civil Rights has traditionally taken the primary role in enforcing HIPAA. But Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon) was reminded of the AG’s ability to enforce HIPAA when it recently agreed to pay a $1.1 million fine to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs for an incident that occurred in November of 2013  involving the theft …

OCR’s HIPAA Guidance on Cloud Computing

On October 6, 2016, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released HIPAA guidance on cloud computing (Guidance).  The Guidance was intended to help covered entities and business associates understand their HIPAA obligations in cloud computing arrangements, and clarify the HIPAA obligations of cloud service providers (CSPs). The Guidance noted in part that:

  • CSPs that create, receive, maintain or transmit electronic protected health information (ePHI) are classified as “business associates” under HIPAA. If a covered entity or business associate uses a CSP to perform any of these functions, it must enter
LexBlog