HHS Seeks Public Comment on the HIPAA Privacy Rule

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Earlier today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (HHS OCR) issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Specifically, HHS OCR is interested in how the HIPAA Privacy Rule could be modified to further Secretary Azar’s goal of promoting coordinated, value-based health care.

This is the latest RFI issued as part of the “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care” initiative being spearheaded by Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. Previous RFIs have sought information regarding the Stark Law and Anti-Kickback Statute.

In the press release announcing the HIPAA RFI, HHS OCR emphasized its ongoing commitment to protect individual privacy and health information, while recognizing that current rules “may limit or discourage information sharing needed for coordinated care or to facilitate the transformation of value-based health care.” The announcement cites stories heard in addressing the opioid crisis about how the HIPAA Privacy Rule stood in the way of needed care.

Health care providers and entities are encouraged to submit any information regarding HIPAA provisions that currently present barriers to coordinated, value-based care without meaningfully adding to patient privacy and security of PHI. All feedback is welcome, but HHS OCR is specifically seeking comments regarding:

  • Encouraging information-sharing for treatment and care coordination;
  • Facilitating parental involvement in care;
  • Addressing the opioid crisis and serious mental illness;
  • Accounting for disclosures of PHI for treatment, payment, and health care operations as required by the HITECH Act; and
  • Changing the current requirement for certain providers to make a good faith effort to obtain an acknowledgement of receipt of the Notice of Privacy Practices.

Public comments on the RFI are due by February 11, 2019. Providers interested in taking this opportunity to potentially influence future iterations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule may be well-served by working with experienced counsel or consultant to submit persuasive comments.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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