Jackson Health System (JHS) has paid a heavy price for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security and Breach Notification Rules between 2013 and 2016.
The $2,154,000 civil monetary penalty the Miami, Florida-based nonprofit academic medical system paid to the Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to settle OCR charges it violated the HIPAA Security & Breach Notifications= Rules makes clear the urgent need for other health care providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses and their business associates to verify the adequacy of their organizations with HIPAA’s privacy, security and breach notification rules currently and on an ongoing basis.
The $2.1 million plus payment was required to satisfy a civil monetary penalty assessment OCR imposed in a Notice of Proposed Determination and Notice of Final Determination made public by OCR on October 23, 2019 in response to findings from a series of investigations of HIPAA breach and compliance concerns raised between 2013 and 2016 raised by various HIPAA-mandated breach reports and media reports that raised concerns about improper access disclosure and use of patient PHI between 2013 and 2016. When JHS did not challenge the findings or determination became final. OCR reports JHS has paid the specified $2.154,000 civil monetary penalties.
JHS HIPAA Violations Found By OCR
JHS operates six major hospitals, a network of urgent care centers, multiple primary care and specialty care centers, long-term care nursing facilities, and corrections health services clinics, provides health services to approximately 650,000 patients annually, and employs about 12,000 individuals. The OCR investigation stemmed from a series of breach and media reports spanning several years and revealed a host of long standing violations of long-standing HIPAA requirements and a failure to accurately disclose or correct those or other violations of a nature that likely continue to exist in many health care systems and other covered entities.
On August 22, 2013, JHS submitted a breach report to OCR stating that its Health Information Management Department lost paper records containing the protected health information (PHI) of 756 patients in January 2013. JHS’s internal investigation determined that an additional three boxes of patient records also were lost in December 2012; however, JHS did not report the additional loss or the increased number of individuals affected to 1,436, until June 7, 2016.
In July 2015, OCR initiated an investigation following a media report that disclosed the PHI of a JHS patient. A reporter had shared a photograph of a JHS operating room screen containing the patient’s medical information on social media. JHS subsequently determined that two employees had accessed this patient’s electronic medical record without a job-related purpose.
On February 19, 2016, JHS submitted a breach report to OCR reporting that an employee had been selling patient PHI. The employee had accessed inappropriately over 24,000 patients’ records since 2011.
According to OCR Director Roger Severino, “OCR’s investigation revealed a HIPAA compliance program that had been in disarray for a number of years. …This hospital system’s compliance program failed to detect and stop an employee who stole and sold thousands of patient records; lost patient files without notifying OCR as required by law; and failed to properly secure PHI that was leaked to the media.”
These and other findings led to the OCR determination in the Notice of Proposed Determination and Notice of Final Determination that JHS failed to provide timely and accurate breach notification to the Secretary of HHS, conduct enterprise-wide risk analyses, manage identified risks to a reasonable and appropriate level, regularly review information system activity records, and restrict authorization of its workforce members’ access to patient ePHI to the minimum necessary to accomplish their job duties. OCR assessed the $2.1 million civil monetary penalty based on these determinations.
Lessons For Other Health Providers & HIPAA Covered Entities Likely Similarly Exposed
The JHS civil monetary penalty is the latest in a growing series of OCR enforcement and regulatory actions that drive home the perils HIPAA-covered health care, health plan, healthcare clearinghouse and business associates risk by failing to responsibly and effectively manage their HIPAA compliance. A review of the available JHS record reveals that like all too many HIPAA-covered entities, JHS never adequately implemented appropriate measures to operationally comply with many of the original HIPAA requirements and perpetuated those deficiencies despite the series of breaches. Sadly, many other health care systems and other HIPAA-covered entities are subject to the same practices. Failing to address these compliance issues makes these non-compliant entities susceptible to the same type of enforcement and other liabilities that JHS now has experienced.
OCR enforcement data documents a steady rise in OCR investigation and enforcement activity. OCR set all-time records for HIPAA Enforcement in 2018. Heavy enforcement activity has continued in 2019. Before its October 23, 2019 announcement of the JHS civil monetary penalties, OCR already had announced:
- A $10,000 resolution agreement with a dental practice for improperly disclosing patient PHI on social media at the beginning of October;
- Its first HIPAA right of access resolution agreement against a health care provider for violating HIPAA’s right of access rules on September 9, 2019 as part of its recently announced HIPAA access rule enforcement initiative;
- A $100,000 resolution payment from an Indiana Medical Records Service resulting from a breach of electronic protected health information at a business associate;
- The collection of a $3 million resolution payment collected from a Tennessee diagnostic medical imaging services company to settle HIPAA civil monetary penalty exposures arising from a breach that exposed the protected health information of more than 300,000 patients; and
- A multitude of other audits and enforcement activities resolved through corrective action without collection of any resolution payment or civil monetary penalties.
Given these and other previously announced enforcement initiatives and actions, all HIPAA covered entities and their business associates are urged to maintain hyper-vigilance about their own HIPAA compliance with long standing as well as emerging HIPAA requirements taking into account old, recent, and emerging guidance and enforcement activities of OCR. Given the almost certain discovery or discussion of known or uncovered compliance concerns and other sensitive information, covered entities are cautioned that these activities generally should be undertaken under the guidance of an experienced attorney within the scope of attorney client privilege.
For More Information
We hope this update is helpful. For more information about this or other labor and employment developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.
Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates and join discussions about these and other human resources, health and other employee benefit and patient empowerment concerns by participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press Health Care Risk Management & Operations Group and registering for updates on our Solutions Law Press Website.
About the Author
Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years of health industry and other management work, public policy leadership and advocacy, coaching, teachings, and publications.
As a primary focus of this work, Ms. Stamer has worked extensively with domestic and international hospitals, health care systems, clinics, skilled nursing, long term care, rehabilitation and other health care providers and facilities; medical staff, accreditation, peer review and quality committees and organizations; billing, utilization management, management services organizations, group purchasing organizations; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, and prescription benefit management and organizations; consultants; investors; technology, billing and reimbursement and other services and product vendors; products and solutions consultants and developers; investors; managed care organizations, insurers, self-insured health plans and other payers, health industry advocacy and other service providers and groups and other health industry clients as well as federal and state legislative, regulatory, investigatory and enforcement bodies and agencies.
Scribe for the ABA JCEB Annual Agency Meeting with OCR, Vice Chair of the ABA International Section Life Sciences Committee, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is noted for her decades-long leading edge work, scholarship and thought leadership on health and other privacy and data security and other health industry legal, public policy and operational concerns. This involvement encompasses helping health care systems and organizations, group and individual health care providers, health plans and insurers, health IT, life sciences and other health industry clients prevent, investigate, manage and resolve sexual assault, abuse, harassment and other organizational, provider and employee misconduct and other performance and behavior; manage Section 1557, Civil Rights Act and other discrimination and accommodation, and other regulatory, contractual and other compliance; vendors and suppliers; contracting and other terms of participation, medical billing, reimbursement, claims administration and coordination, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, Medicare/Medicaid Advantage, ERISA and other payers and other provider-payer relations, contracting, compliance and enforcement; Form 990 and other nonprofit and tax-exemption; fundraising, investors, joint venture, and other business partners; quality and other performance measurement, management, discipline and reporting; physician and other workforce recruiting, performance management, peer review and other investigations and discipline, wage and hour, payroll, gain-sharing and other pay-for performance and other compensation, training, outsourcing and other human resources and workforce matters; board, medical staff and other governance; strategic planning, process and quality improvement; meaningful use, EMR, HIPAA and other technology, data security and breach and other health IT and data; STARK, antikickback, insurance, and other fraud prevention, investigation, defense and enforcement; audits, investigations, and enforcement actions; trade secrets and other intellectual property; crisis preparedness and response; internal, government and third-party licensure, credentialing, accreditation, HCQIA and other peer review and quality reporting, audits, investigations, enforcement and defense; patient relations and care; internal controls and regulatory compliance; payer-provider, provider-provider, vendor, patient, governmental and community relations; facilities, practice, products and other sales, mergers, acquisitions and other business and commercial transactions; government procurement and contracting; grants; tax-exemption and not-for-profit; privacy and data security; training; risk and change management; regulatory affairs and public policy; process, product and service improvement, development and innovation, and other legal and operational compliance and risk management, government and regulatory affairs and operations concerns. to establish, administer and defend workforce and staffing, quality, and other compliance, risk management and operational practices, policies and actions; comply with requirements; investigate and respond to Board of Medicine, Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, Chiropractic, and other licensing agencies, Department of Aging & Disability, FDA, Drug Enforcement Agency, OCR Privacy and Civil Rights, Department of Labor, IRS, HHS, DOD, FTC, SEC, CDC and other public health, Department of Justice and state attorneys’ general and other federal and state agencies; JCHO and other accreditation and quality organizations; private litigation and other federal and state health care industry actions: regulatory and public policy advocacy; training and discipline; enforcement; and other strategic and operational concerns.
Author of leading works on HIPAA and a multitude of other health care, health plan and other health industry matters, the American Bar Association (ABA) International Section Life Sciences Committee Vice Chair, a Scribe for the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) Annual OCR Agency Meeting and a former Council Representative, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, and past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, and a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her extensive publications and thought leadership as well as leadership involvement in a broad range of other professional and civic organizations. For more information about Ms. Stamer or her health industry and other experience and involvements, see here or contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 452-8297 or via e-mail here.
About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™
Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ resources available here such as:
- IRS Proposes Easing Disclosure Requirements For Certain Tax-Exempt Entities
- Important Lessons For Health Care Providers From Michigan State Settlement Of OCR Larry Nassar Sexual Abuse Investigation
- Air Ambulance Bills Drawing Congressional “Surprise Billing” Scrutiny
- Two Women Sentenced for Defrauding Federal Health Care Program of $26 Million Plus
- VA App Helps Providers Screen Vets For Environmental Exposures
- Health IT Provider Pays $100K To OCR For Breach After No HIPAA Risk Assessment
- New Pharma Transparency Rules Mean More Work For Providers
- Tips Help Exempt Organizations Avoid Common Form 990 Filing Mistakes
- Providers, Other HIPAA-Covered Entities Must Provide PHI to Patient-Designated Apps; Liable For Security On Covered Entity Supplied Or Sponsored Apps
- Provider Pays $3 Million For Breach With Delayed Investigation & Notice
- VA Offers Free Online Provider Training on Chronic Multisymptom Illness & Other Veteran Care Topics
- CMS Finalizes 2020 Medicare Advantage & Prescription Drug Program Rule Updates & Implements Other Integrity Rule Changes
- Beef Up Patient Education & Management Tools With Diabetes Alert Day Resources
- New GAO Report Likely To Fuel Scrutiny Of Air Ambulance Charges
- Tax Exemption Determination Procedures Changing
- Cognitive Disability Exclusion from Heart Transplant List Placement Prohibited
- FDA Announces Emergency Approval of In Vitro Diagnostic Device Ebola Detection in Congo
- Year-End $3 Million HIPAA Settlement Pushes 2018 OCR HIPAA Recoveries Over $28 Million; Act Promptly To Strengthen Compliance & Share Ideas For Simplification
- ONC Report Signals New Interoperability Demands Coming
- Watch FLSA Compliance When Scheduling or Paying Healthcare Workers Creatively
- Obamacare Future Unclear After Trial Court Holds Unconstitutional
- 2/11/19 Deadline To Comment On Reducing HIPAA Regulatory Burden
- Allergy Practice $125,000 Settlement Reminds Health Care Providers, Other HIPAA Entities Of Press-Related HIPAA Risk
- Apply for 2019 CDC Externships in Public Health Law By 1/31/19
- DOJ-Atrium Settlement Signals Possible Antitrust Risks From Common Provider Contract Terms
- Listen In on Free 11/15 Telemedicine Twitter Chat
- CMS Hosts EDGE Server Webinar Series VIII for Health Insurers, TPAs
- Trump Signs Sweeping Opiate Prescription & Treatment Reform Bill Into Law
- Record $16M HIPAA Sanction Shows Need For Current Enterprise Risk Assessment; ONC/OCR Share New Tool To Help HIPAA Covered Entities Comply
- Record $16M Anthem HIPAA Settlement Signals Need To Tighten HIPAA Compliance & Risk Management
- Comments Due Tomorrow (10/17) On ONC Request for Information (RFI) for Input on EHR Reporting Program
- Congress Set To Pass Opiate Addition Crisis Bill
- $999K Price Hospitals Pay To Settle HIPAA Privacy Charges From Allowing ABC To Film Patients Without Authorization
- OCR Issues HIPAA Privacy Rule Relief About Sharing Medical Information, Shares Guidance to Help Ensure Equal Access to Emergency Services During Hurricane Florence
- Device Manufacturers & Health Care Providers Should Update Audits & Controls For New NIST Data Security Guidance
- House Passess Medical Device Tax Repeal, Other Health Bills; Will Senate Follow Its Lead?
- Bill Delaying Medicaid Personal Services Assistance Payment Reduction For Visits Not Electronically Verified
If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information including your preferred e-mail by creating your profile here.
NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice or an offer or commitment to provide legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as legal advice or an admission. The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The author and Solutions Law Press, Inc. disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify anyone any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.
Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department Regulations. Any statements contained herein are not intended or written by the writer to be used, and nothing contained herein can be used by you or any other person, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under federal tax law, or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related transaction or matter addressed herein.
©2019 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ For information about republication, please contact the author directly. All other rights reserved.