By Adam Greene

The past week has brought a number of developments with respect to HIPAA.  The long-awaited finalization of a number of modifications to HIPAA remains on hold as the Office of Management and Budget posted that it has extended its review of the draft regulations.  The HHS Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), which administers and enforces HIPAA, published the audit protocol that is being used in OCR’s current privacy and security audits.  The protocol includes the key areas of the audits, the types of questions that will be asked, and the types of documentation that will be reviewed.  The protocol leaves a lot of ambiguity, however, by failing to provide much detail about the standards against which audited entities are judged.  Finally, OCR announced a $1.7 million settlement against Alaska’s Medicaid agency.  The investigation was triggered by the theft of a portable hard drive that may have contained protected health information, but led to OCR finding allegedly widespread noncompliance with the Security Rule.  It shows that no covered entities are immune from a sizable settlement under HIPAA, and that relatively small breaches may unearth large HIPAA problems during the subsequent investigation.  More information about these developments are available in a DWT advisory available here.