Archives: HIPAA and Health Information

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OCR Announces $125,000 Settlement for Disclosure of Patient Information to Reporter

The United States Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced a settlement this week with Allergy Associates of Hartford, P.C. whereby Allergy Associates agreed to pay $125,000 to resolve a HIPAA violation complaint that alleged the covered entity impermissibly disclosed the complainant’s Protected Health Information (PHI) to an unauthorized third … Continue Reading

New Jersey AG Announces $200,000 Settlement with Business Associate and Permanent Ban for BA’s Owner due to 2016 Data Breach Affecting Over 1,650 Patients

On November 2, 2018, the New Jersey Attorney General announced a settlement worth up to $200,000 with a former medical transcription company responsible for a breach affecting medical records of up to 1,654 patients of a New Jersey physician network for which the company acted as a business associate. Please see our analysis of an … Continue Reading

Anthem Settles with OCR for $16M for 2015 Data Breach

The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced this week that it has settled the largest health care data breach for the largest enforcement fine in history. OCR settled the massive data breach Anthem suffered in 2015 for $16 million—a substantially larger fine than any others assessed by OCR for … Continue Reading

Years-Long Exposure of Sensitive Client Information Results in $200,000 Settlement with New York Attorney General

In late August, the Attorney General of the State of New York announced a $200,000 settlement with a New York-based non-profit organization that provides services to developmentally disabled individuals and their families after concluding that the organization exposed sensitive personal information of its clients on the Internet for almost three years. The settlement is the … Continue Reading

HHS Issues Limited Waiver Following Hurricane Florence

As Hurricane Florence was making landfall, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar issued HIPAA guidance that outlined when hospitals in declared state of emergency areas can qualify for a waiver of certain provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including fines and penalties. According to the guidance, “the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows patient … Continue Reading

July Worst Month in 2018 for Health Care Data Breaches Reported to OCR

Data breaches continue to plague the health care industry, and July 2018 was the worst month so far this year in the number of data breaches reported to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Thirty-three data breaches were reported by covered entities and business associates in July, with the largest one reported by UnityPoint Health, … Continue Reading

OCR Issues Guidance on Disposing Electronic Data and Media

In its July newsletter on cybersecurity, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released “Guidance on Disposing of Electronic Devices and Media,” which outlines the requirements health care providers and business associates have regarding the security of electronic data and media under the HIPAA Security Rule. The newsletter reminds health care providers and business associates that … Continue Reading

OCR Prevails with ALJ Against MD Anderson for $4.3 Million in HIPAA Fines and Penalties

It is a rare occurrence when a health care entity challenges the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) regarding proposed fines and penalties for HIPAA violations. In my memory, it has only happened once before. On June 1, 2018, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) granted summary judgment in favor of the OCR against The University of … Continue Reading

Thousands of Patients’ PHI Exposed By Transcription Provider MEDantex

Medical transcription provider MEDantex has reportedly exposed the protected health information of thousands of patients through its unsecured provider portal, which did not require a password for access. According to reports, including KrebsOnSecurity, the patients’ audio medical notes were uploaded to MEDantex’s website, which were then to be transcribed and uploaded to a portal accessible … Continue Reading

Paper Records Still Problematic for Healthcare Providers

Data breaches continue to be an issue for healthcare providers, as indicated when looking at breaches reported to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), as required by HIPAA. In the first three months of 2018, there were 77 breaches of protected health information (PHI) reported to OCR, which included more than one million patient records. … Continue Reading

DOJ Announces Criminal Conviction of Physician for HIPAA Violation

On April 30, 2018, a Massachusetts physician was convicted of a criminal violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as well as one count of obstruction of a criminal health care investigation, in a Massachusetts federal court. The convictions relate to the purported sharing of confidential patient information by the … Continue Reading

New Jersey AG Fines Virtua Medical Group $418,000 for Data Breach Caused by Vendor

The New Jersey Attorney General’s office announced this week that it has fined Virtua Medical Group, which is comprised of more than 50 medical practices in New Jersey, for failing to protect the privacy of 1,650 patients when their medical information was accessible online. The information was uploaded to a password-protected FTP website, but during … Continue Reading

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 … Continue Reading

Fresenius Pays OCR $3.5M for Five Separate Data Breaches Affecting a Total of 521 Individuals

In the first settlement for HIPAA violations in 2018, Fresenius Medical Care North America (Fresenius) has agreed to pay $3.5 million to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to settle allegations against it relating to five data breaches that occurred over a four month period in 2012. Interestingly, the five separate breaches affected the information … Continue Reading

Lessons Learned from Recent OCR HIPAA Audits

Covered entities, including employer sponsored health plans, should brace for audits and enforcement of the Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification rules by the Department of Health & Human Service Office of Civil Rights (OCR) following OCR’s recent announcement of a large HIPAA settlement last month on the heels of its release of the preliminary results … Continue Reading

OCR Warns Health Care Industry of Risks with Previous Employees

In its November newsletter, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) made a great point that we are seeing in the industry—the risks associated with previous employees. According to its newsletter, entitled “Insider Threats and Termination Procedures,” the OCR states “Data breaches caused by current and former workforce members are a recurring issue across many industries, … Continue Reading

Henry Ford Health System Notifies 18,000+ Patients of Health Data Breach

On December 6, 2017, Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) disclosed that health information of 18,470 patients may have been viewed or stolen. HFHS became aware of the incident on October 3, 2017 after employee credentials were accessed or stolen. According to a statement published on HFHS’ website, Social Security numbers and credit card information were … Continue Reading

OCR Clarifies Privacy Rule for Sharing PHI on Opioid Overdoses

In the wake of the national opioid overdose crisis, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has provided clarification on when covered entities are permitted to disclose patient information during opioid emergencies. The OCR commented that some health care providers believe that they must have the patient’s consent in order to share information with family members … Continue Reading

CMS Addresses Lingering Uncertainties and Raises Others via MACRA Information Blocking Guidance

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued guidance intended to help clinicians eligible for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) navigate an attestation required thereunder concerning the prevention of information blocking. MIPS was implemented via CMS’s Quality Payments Program final rule with comment period released in 2016, and represents one avenue for … Continue Reading

At least 473,074 Individuals’ Health Care Records Breached in September 2017

Unfortunately, September was another banner month for data breaches involving the health care industry. According to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website, 39 data breaches involving over 500 records were reported to the OCR in the month of September. This does not include all records breached, as health care entities have until February 2018 … Continue Reading

Open Enrollment for 2018: Don’t Forget about HIPAA!

With open enrollment in full swing for many employers, now is a good time to review employee benefit communications. Plan sponsors of health plans are generally responsible for properly administering all of the health plan notices required by law, including HIPAA. To ease the administrative burden and to cut costs, these notices can, and often … Continue Reading
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