The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has announced the first HIPAA enforcement action OCR has taken against a State agency, and the resolution agreement and related corrective action plan carry important lessons for both public and private entities. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (Alaska DHSS), the State of Alaska’s Medicaid agency, has entered into a resolution agreement with OCR to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Security Rule. Alaska DHSS has agreed to pay the federal government $1.7 million and also take corrective action to properly safeguard the electronic protected health information (ePHI) of Alaska’s Medicaid beneficiaries.
The HIPAA violations covered under the resolution agreement were identified following a breach report submitted by Alaska DHSS as required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. The report indicated that a single portable electronic storage device (USB hard drive) possibly containing ePHI was stolen from the vehicle of an Alaska DHSS employee in 2009. Over the course of the investigation, OCR determined that Alaska DHSS...
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