ProPublica has been running a series of lengthy articles about HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforcement that are worth reading.
A Sustained and Vigorous Critique of OCR HIPAA Enforcement
A ProPublica article from early in 2015 noted that HIPAA fines were quite rare. The article noted that from 2009 through 2014, more than 1,140 large data breaches were reported to OCR, affecting 41 million people. Another 120,000 HIPAA violations were reported affecting fewer than 500 people. “Yet, over that time span,” the article notes, “the Office for Civil Rights has fined health care organizations just 22 times. . . . By comparison, the California Department of Public Health . . . imposed 22 penalties last year alone.”
Next year, there will be a milestone birthday for the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) – the primary federal law that regulates how the government and private parties can monitor people’s Internet use, wiretap their communications, peruse their email, gain access to their files, and much more.
This is no ordinary birthday for ECPA. In 2016, ECPA turns 30. Little did anyone think that in 1986, when ECPA was passed, that it would still remain largely unchanged for 30 years. In 1986, the Cloud was just something in the sky. The Web was what a spider made.
Recently, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publicized its resolution agreement in its HIPAA enforcement action against St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center (SEMC). SEMC agreed to pay $218,000.
The case began with a complaint filed with OCR back in 2012 that employees were sharing PHI of nearly 500 patients via an online sharing application without a risk analysis on such activities being undertaken. OCR investigation found that the medical center “failed to timely identify and respond to the known security incident, mitigate the harmful effects of the security incident and document the security incident and its outcome.”
This post is part of a post series where we round up some of the interesting news and resources we’re finding.For a PDF version of this post, and for archived issues of previous posts, click here. We cover health issues in a separate post.
Are privacy and security laws being enforced effectively? This post is post #5 of a series called Enforcing Privacy and Security Laws.
Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), various organizations can be randomly selected to be audited – even if no complaint has been issued against them and even if there has been no privacy incident or breach.
What the audits thus far have revealed is quite alarming. I’ll discuss more on that later.