Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) imposed a civil monetary penalty (“CMP”), to the tune of $2.15 million, against Jackson Health System (“JHS”).  The CMP stemmed from JHS’ numerous HIPAA violations that occurred from 2013 through 2016.  
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Privacy and cybersecurity is at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days and, in 2018, the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) settled ten cases and prevailed in another before an Administrative Law Judge to the tune of $28,700,000. This is a new record for OCR, besting 2016 by over $5,000,000. The latest settlement clocked in at $3,000,000, owed by a health system in California that experienced two breaches of electronic protected health information (“ePHI”), which affected 62,500 individuals.  The first breach involved a security configuration where persons could access files with ePHI without a username or password, thereby making ePHI available to anyone with access to the health system’s server.  The second breach involved a server misconfiguration, exposing the health system’s ePHI over the internet, including social security numbers and treatment information.
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A Colorado Hospital reached an $111,400 settlement with the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) for failing to terminate a former employee’s access to electronic protected health information.  OCR’s investigation uncovered that the hospital impermissibly disclosed electronic protected health information of over 500 individuals to the former employee because it failed to terminate that employee’s access.  Additionally, OCR found that the hospital impermissibly disclosed information to Google Calendar, without a business associate agreement.  There are two main takeaways here.
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On Monday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced a $125,000 settlement with a three-physician allergy practice in Connecticut for HIPAA Privacy Rule violations.  According to OCR’s press release and corrective action plan, a physician responded to a reporter’s questions about the allergy practice turning away a patient with a service animal.  While the allergy practice had HIPAA policies and procedures in place, the involved physician did not adhere to the policies.  Further, once OCR uncovered the issue, it also found that the practice failed to sanction the involved physician in accordance with its policies.
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More than three years ago, Anthem, Inc. reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that it suffered a cyber attack compromising the protected health information of nearly 79 million individuals. This breach continues to be the largest breach of protected health information to date.  Yesterday, OCR announced its record-breaking $16 million settlement with Anthem related to the massive breach. 
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