Government to step up HIPAA enforcement, release new compliance tools

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The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will expand Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act enforcement efforts in the next two years, according to OCR Director Leon Rodriguez.

Speaking at the National HIPAA Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Rodriguez said his office would spearhead a federal effort to enforce the omnibus HIPAA rule issued Jan. 25. While the original HIPAA law was passed in 1996, the updated rule takes effect March 26. Enforcement will begin after the Sept. 23 compliance deadline.

OCR will not focus its attention on particular types of healthcare providers, but will concentrate on those that have “long-standing patterns of noncompliance,” Rodriguez said. The agency will also look carefully at violations related to data breaches from unsecured mobile devices.

Nursing home operators and other healthcare providers will be able to refer to online compliance resources that will be posted before the omnibus rule takes effect next month, OCR Deputy Director of Health Information Privacy Susan McAndrew said in her speech at the summit.

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