Recent $400K HIPAA Settlement with FQHC Highlights Importance of HIPAA Security Management Process

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), recently entered a $400,000 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) settlement with Metro Community Provider Network (MCPN), a federally-qualified health center (FQHC). The settlement serves as a stark reminder that all covered entities, including FQHCs, must meet the HIPAA Security Rule requirements and that OCR is continuing to step up enforcement efforts in this area. Continue reading

First Ever HIPAA Enforcement Action for Delay in Breach Reporting

A delay in timely breach notification may now cost you. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently entered a settlement with Presence Health for untimely reporting a breach of unsecured protected health information (PHI). Presence discovered that its operating room schedules containing PHI for 836 individuals were missing on October 22, 2013. Under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, breaches like this which involve >500 individuals are required to be reported to the individuals, prominent media outlets and OCR without unreasonable delay and in no case later than 60 days. Presence did not report the breach to OCR until January 31, 2014, approximately 100 days after discovering the breach. OCR’s investigation concluded that Presence failed to notify, without unreasonable delay and within 60 days of discovering the breach, each of the 836 individuals, the media and OCR. Presence agreed to pay $475,000 to settle the potential violations.

The Press Release and Resolution Agreement are available on the OCR website.

Written by: Jacob Simpson

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OCR Phase 2 HIPAA Audits Have Begun: Are you Ready?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has started a second phase of audits for compliance with HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Standards. The OCR has previously conducted an audit pilot phase and Phase 1 audits of HIPAA covered entities (i.e., healthcare providers, clearinghouses, and health plans). In this Phase 2 of the HIPAA audits, OCR will audit both covered entities and their business associates. Continue reading

Physician Practice and Hospital Pay $750,000 and $1.5 Million for Failure to Have HIPAA Business Associate Agreements

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently announced two separate settlements with a hospital and a physician practice that highlight the importance of having HIPAA business associate agreements. Each of these HIPAA settlements were based on the failure to have a HIPAA business associate agreement in place with a third party that a hospital and a physician practice had disclosed patient’s healthcare information to perform certain administrative services. In each case, the third party recipients of patient electronic healthcare information committed or contributed to a breach under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Continue reading

OCR Settlement with Physician Group Highlights Need For HIPAA Business Associate Agreements

This week, the OCR announced another HIPAA settlement based on a provider’s failure to have a Business Associate Agreement in place before disclosing PHI to a third party business vendor.

OCR had initiated an investigation of Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic, P.A. of North Carolina following receipt of a breach report which revealed a release of protected health information (PHI) without first having a business associate agreement (BAA) in place. Continue reading

OCR Announces $1.55 Million Settlement Based on Failure to Have a Business Associate Agreement in Place and Conduct an Organization-Wide Risk Analysis

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on March 16, 2016, that North Memorial Health Care of Minnesota agreed to pay $1,550,000 to settle allegations that it violated the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules by failing to implement a Business Associate Agreement with a major contractor and failing to institute an organization-wide risk analysis to address the risks and vulnerabilities to its patient information. The OCR initiated an investigation of North Memorial following receipt of a breach report that an unencrypted, password-protected laptop was stolen from a business associate’s workforce member’s locked vehicle, impacting the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of 9,497 individuals. Continue reading

OCR Issues Guidance on Access to PHI – Providers and ROI Companies Beware

On February 25, 2016, the Office of Civil Rights, which enforces the HIPAA privacy rules, released lengthy guidance on a patient’s right to access their medical records under 45 CFR §164.524.  The link to the guidance is  The publication also includes a number of FAQs addressing copy fees, including “What labor costs may a covered entity include in the fee that may be charged to individuals to provide them with a copy of their PHI?”, “How can covered entities calculate the limited fee that can be charged to individuals to provide them with a copy of their PHI?”, and “When do the HIPAA Privacy Rule limitations on fees that can be charged for individuals to access copies of their PHI apply to disclosures of the individual’s PHI to a third party?”

Providers will get a sense for OCR’s perspective from the following FAQ comment, “Further, while the Privacy Rule permits the limited fee described above, covered entities should provide individuals who request access to their information with copies of their PHI free of charge.”

BSW is planning a webinar in the near future on this guidance.  If you’d like to receive notice of that webinar, please contact

Written by: Greg Frost


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