Leavitt adds teeth to HIPAA enforcement

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has taken new steps to boost HIPAA enforcement, making it easier for the HHS Office of Civil Rights to issue subpoenas in investing potential HIPAA and Patient Safety Quality Improvement Act violations. Leavitt has given the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) the power to issue subpoenas to investigate not only the highly-publicized privacy provisions of HIPAA, but also rules on "transaction and code sets." (In other words, he's also authorizing the OCR to investigate whether providers have complied with the National Provider Identifier deadline.) While Leavitt's move doesn't change the enforcement process dramatically--as the OCR could already get subpoenas by working through the Secretary--it does make it easier for the Office to move ahead with cases. While he didn't say so directly, this move makes it fairly obvious that Leavitt would like to see tougher HIPAA investigations take place. To date, financial penalties under HIPAA have been rare, and few cases have been pursued.

To learn more about the announcement:
- read this Modern Healthcare article (sub. req.)

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