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HHS Releases Final HIPAA Omnibus Rule

On January 17, 2013 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the much anticipated final HIPAA omnibus rule.  HHS announced that the rule greatly enhances patient privacy protections, provides individuals new rights to health information, and strengthens the government’s ability to enforce the law.

The HHS press release highlights the following elements of the final omnibus rule:

  • Expands privacy and security requirements to business associates.
  • Establishes that business associates may be liable for increased penalties for noncompliance based on the level of negligence up to a maximum of $1.5 million.
  • Strengthens the HITECH breach notification requirements by clarifying when breaches of unsecured protected health information must be reported to HHS.
  • Expands individual rights, including (1) allowing patients to ask for a copy of their electronic medical record in an electronic form and (2) allowing patients to instruct providers not to share information about their treatment with the patient’s health plan when a patient pays by cash.
  • Sets limits on how information is used and disclosed for marketing and fundraising purposes.
  • Prohibits the sale of an individual’s health information without their permission.

The rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on January 25.  The effective date is March 26 and covered entities and business associates must comply with the rule’s requirements by September 23, 2013.

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About this Author

Meghan C. O'Connor, Health Care Attorney, Von Briesen Law Firm

Meghan O’Connor is a member of the Health Care Section and the Government Relations and Regulatory Law Section. She advises clients on a wide range of regulatory compliance, corporate, and transactional matters, including: HIPAA, HITECH, and other federal and state confidentiality laws; provider and vendor contracting; health care reform, Medicare, and Medicaid compliance; patient care and risk management issues; managed care; insurance regulation; and clinical integration and accountable care networks.

Prior to joining von...