Healthcare Privacy Practices Notice Must Include Nondiscrimination Notice

By Margaret Young Levi and Kathie McDonald-McClureprivacy policy

Among the many mandates of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (a/k/a “Obama Care”) still in force today is Section 1557. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the agency vested with responsibility for implementing and enforcing Section 1557. On May 16, 2016, OCR issued a Final Rule that requires entities covered by the ACA to notify beneficiaries, enrollees, applicants, or members of the public of Section 1557’s nondiscrimination prohibitions. This notice must be included in the entity’s “significant” publications and communications.

You might ask, “Why am I reading about this on a legal blog about privacy and security?”  This is because OCR determined that the Notice of Privacy Practices, which healthcare providers and health plans issue to patients and plan members, is a “significant” publication or communication. As a result, health care providers and health plans that are subject to both Section 1557 and the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) must add the Section 1557 nondiscrimination notices and taglines to their Notice of Privacy Practices. Health plans should add such notices and taglines to their Summary of Benefits and Coverage as well.

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HHS Amends CLIA to Broaden the Patient’s Access Rights to Lab Test Results

by Kathie McDonald-McClure and Elizabeth O’Keeffe

lab_specimensAs we have previously reported on the Wyatt HITECH Law blog on September 14, 2013 and September 23, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has had in the works, for over two years now, revisions to the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act of 1988 (CLIA) regulations concerning whether a lab may release test results directly to patients.  On February 3, 2013, HHS announced the release of a Final Rule (Final Rule) amending the CLIA regulations to allow laboratories to give a patient, or a person designated by the patient, his or her “personal representative”, access to the patient’s completed test reports upon the patient’s or patient’s personal representative’s request.  The Final Rule was issued jointly by three agencies within HHS: the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is generally responsible for laboratory regulation under CLIA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which provides scientific and technical advice to CMS related to CLIA, and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is responsible for enforcing the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Continue reading

Health Care Providers Need Not Meet Meaningful Use This Year to Remain Eligible for EHR Incentive Payments Next Year!

HITECH EHR Incentive Program PaymentsThe Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program was implemented by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pursuant to the Health Information Technology for Clinical and Economic Health Act of 2009 (HITECH).  This Program provides incentive payments to Eligible Hospitals, Critical Access Hospitals and Eligible Providers (collectively, “eligible providers”) who make a Meaningful Use (MU) of certified EHRs.  Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) No. 9920 issued in November 2013 by CMS about the EHR Incentive Program deals with whether providers must participate in the Program every year in order to stay eligible for the incentives.  FAQ 9920 clarifies that eligible providers do not have to meet MU in the prior year to be eligible for EHR incentives the following year. Continue reading

E-Patient: The Doctor May “See” You Now

Welcome to our newest contributing author, Elizabeth O’Keeffe, who prepared the following post

HCP with stethoscope using phone while on laptopE-health, e-patients, social media, telehealth, telemedicine, mobile health care – what does it all mean to you as a patient?  As an employee?  As a CEO?  “Telehealth” is booming and could substantially disrupt the old-fashioned health care model.  In-person doctor appointments, hospitalizations, and follow up visits all occur, but through a new means – technology.  The growth in technology and other competitive forces, including market differentiation, market segmentation, costs, efficiencies, and access, have created this new market and while it may all seem like just more “techie stuff,” it is not going away and as in banking (like that first time you used an ATM – what, no teller?), it will change how we approach health care. Continue reading

HHS Announces Dramatic Increase in Adoption of Electronic Health Records

Doctors Using EHROn May 22, 2013, Kathleen Sebelius,  Secretary of the United States Health & Human Services Department, announced that over 50 percent of doctors and over 80 percent of hospitals are making a “meaningful use” of electronic health records (EHRs) and have received incentives for such use.   By comparison, in 2008, just nine percent had adopted EHRs.  Secretary Sebelius credits the “dramatic increase” in adoption of EHRs to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) that was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  The HITECH Act awards incentives to eligible professionals (physicians) and hospitals who make a “meaningful use” of EHR technology that has been certified by the HHS Office of National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC).  The HHS press release with further information is available here.