HHS proposes changes to HIPAA rules

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new rules and resources to strengthen the privacy of health information by expanding the scope of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 and bolstering its enforcement capabilities.

The proposed rules are intended to support the adoption and use of health information technology by adding broader individual rights and stronger protections when third parties handle individually identifiable health information.

The proposed regulations, published on July 8, 2010, would:

  • Expand individuals' rights to access their information
  • Restrict certain disclosures of protected health information to health plans
  • Extend the applicability of some of HIPAA's privacy and security rules to business associates of covered entities
  • Establish new limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information for marketing and fundraising purposes
  • Prohibit the sale of protected health information without patient authorization

The proposed rules are designed to strengthen and expand the HHS Office for Civil Rights to enforce HIPAA's privacy and security provisions, according to a joint statement from David Blumenthal, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology and Georgina Verdugo, director of the Office for Civil Rights.

HHS is soliciting comments about the proposal during a 60-day time period starting July 14, 2010. The 234-page document may be accessed by clicking here.

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