Privacy and Data Security

On July 1, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) issued new regulations[1] (the “Regulations”) effective immediately that more narrowly limit the circumstances under which instances of unauthorized access to medical information have to be reported to CDPH.  The new regulations also give CDPH more discretion to adjust penalties for violations.  The Regulations complement Section 1280.15 of the Health and Safety Code (“Section 1280.15”) requiring state-licensed clinics, health facilities, home health agencies, and hospices to prevent any unlawful or unauthorized access to, or use or disclosure of, a patient’s medical information, and to report any unauthorized access, use or disclosure to the Department no later than fifteen (15) business days after the breach was detected.

Continue Reading California Issues New Health Facility Breach Reporting Requirements

On May 6, 2021, the comment period for the proposed modification to regulations implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) Privacy Rule and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH”) closed.  The Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) at the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued its initial request for information in December 2018, subsequently released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) to the public on December 10, 2020, and published the Proposed Rule in the Federal Register on January 21, 2021 (the “Proposed Rule”).  After a significant degree of public interest in providing input on the proposals, OCR extended the comment period from its original end date of March 22, 2021 to May 6, 2021.
Continue Reading HIPAA Privacy Rule Modification – Removing Barriers and Promoting Coordinated Care at What Cost?

Virginia is now the second state, after California, to pass a comprehensive privacy law. The Consumer Data Protection Act (“CDPA”) will come into effect January 1, 2023 (the same time as the modification to California’s Consumer Privacy Act (“CCPA”), i.e., the California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”)). While CDPA has fairly broad exemptions for entities regulated by other laws, such as HIPAA, there is also a new “opt-in” requirement for collecting “sensitive data.”
Continue Reading What Virginia’s New Privacy Law Means for Organizations in the Healthcare Industry

Will HHS’ approach for imposing penalties in the aftermath of a data breach become a little clearer in 2021? This is a distinct possibility in the wake of a Fifth Circuit decision vacating penalties against MD Anderson Cancer Center. The hospital suffered three data breaches, leading HHS to impose over $4 million in civil penalties. That fine was reversed recently by the Fifth Circuit as arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law.
Continue Reading What Does the Fifth Circuit’s Vacating of HHS HIPAA Fines Mean for Companies This Year?

On April 2, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced a Notification of Enforcement Discretion to allow certain uses and disclosures of Protected Health Information (“PHI”) by HIPAA business associates during the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Understanding that the CDC, CMS and state and local health departments need quick access to COVID-19 related healthcare data in order to fight the pandemic, HHS decided to grant HIPAA business associates greater freedom to cooperate and exchange COVID-19-related information with public health and oversight agencies.
Continue Reading HHS Further Relaxes HIPAA Regulations Governing Use and Disclosure of Protected Health Information During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

“New York Settles EmblemHealth Breach for $575,000,” is a reprint of an article first posted on the Sheppard Mullin Eye on Privacy blog on March 15, 2018. EmblemHealth is one of the United States’ largest nonprofit health plans. It is headquartered in New York City, New York.

New York Settles EmblemHealth Breach for $575,000

The recent $575,000 settlement with EmblemHealth signals a push from AG Schneiderman “for stronger security laws and hold[ing] businesses accountable for protecting their customers’ personal data.” Noting New York’s “weak and outdated” security laws, AG Scheiderman used the settlement to urge for the swift passage of the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (“SHIELD Act”) introduced by his office in November 2017, which would make New York one of the most protective states in terms of data privacy and security.
Continue Reading New York Settles EmblemHealth Breach for $575,000

This is not a drill.

Companies and law enforcement agencies around the world have been left scrambling after the world’s most prolific ransomware attack hit over 500,000 computers in 150 countries over a span of only 4 days. The ransomware – called WannaCry, WCry, WannaCrypt, or WannaDecryptor – infects vulnerable computers and encrypts all of the data. The owner or user of the computer is then faced with an ominous screen, displaying a countdown timer and demand that a ransom of $300 be paid in bitcoin before the owner can regain access to the encrypted data. The price demanded increases over time until the end of the countdown, when the files are permanently destroyed. Hospitals and healthcare entities in the UK and elsewhere were particularly hard hit and continue struggling to recover, with doctors around the world blocked from access to patient files and multiple emergency room and even entire-hospital shut-downs. To date, the total amount of ransom paid by companies is reported to be less than $60,000, indicating that companies are opting to let their files be destroyed and to rely instead on backups rather than pay the attackers. Nevertheless, the total disruption costs to businesses is expected to range from the hundreds of millions to the billions of dollars.
Continue Reading WannaCry Ransomware Alert

Big name companies, government agencies and individuals are all falling victim to “ransomware” attacks in record and still-rising numbers. Recently, Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital’s communications capabilities were disabled for 10 days before the hospital paid a ransom of 40 bitcoins – about $17,000 – and regained access to its system. And this week Medstar Health, a system of ten major hospitals in the Washington, DC area, reportedly suffered a similar attack. All this activity has led experts to label 2016 as “the year of ransomware.”  And this new form of cyberattack requires a different approach to cybersecurity and incident recovery than your data breach prevention plan.
Continue Reading Be Alert: Ransomware Attacks on the Rise