Health and Human Services Proposes HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes

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Last month, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to support consumers’ “engagement in their care, remove barriers to coordinated care, and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry,” according to a news release.

The NPRM was initiated under HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s value-based transformation agenda and led by HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, with the goal to review federal regulations that limit efforts by health care providers and health plans and foster value-based health care.

At press time, several nominees were under consideration for a new HHS secretary appointed by President-elect Joe Biden, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Our proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule will break down barriers that have stood in the way of commonsense care coordination and value-based arrangements for far too long,” Azar said in the news release. “As part of our broader efforts to reform regulations that impede care coordination, these proposed reforms will reduce burdens on providers and empower patients and their families to secure better health.”

Proposed changes to the rule include: 

  • Strengthening individuals’ rights to access their own health information, including electronic information.

  • Improving information sharing for care coordination and case management for individuals.

  • Facilitating greater family and caregiver involvement in the care of individuals experiencing emergencies or health crises.

  • Enhancing flexibilities for disclosures in emergency or threatening circumstances.

  • Reducing administrative burdens on HIPAA covered healthcare providers Health and Human Services Proposes HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes and health plans, while continuing to protect individuals’ health information privacy interests.

“These proposed changes reduce burdens on providers and support new ways for them to innovate and coordinate care on behalf of patients, while ensuring that we uphold HIPAA’s promise of privacy and security,” HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said in the news release.

The OCR is accepting public comments from stakeholders including patients and their families, HIPAA covered entities (health plans, health care clearinghouses, and most health care providers) and their business associates, consumer advocates, health care professional associations, health information management professionals, health information technology vendors, and government entities.

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