HHS: We’ll do more to protect your health information’s privacy, speed health care investigations

Among other steps, the agency’s Office of Civil Rights is being reorganized to better investigate complaints of violations of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

SHARE HHS: We’ll do more to protect your health information’s privacy, speed health care investigations
Melanie Fontes Rainer, director of the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights.

Melanie Fontes Rainer, director of the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights.

Provided

WASHINGTON — Federal officials say they’re working to cut down on a growing backlog of complaints lodged against health care providers, insurers and government agencies by patients who claim their civil rights or privacy have been violated.

Americans filed more than 51,000 complaints last year against health agencies, a number that has grown tremendously — 69% — over the past five years, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, with some complaints taking years to investigate.

About two-thirds of the cases involve potential violations of health privacy and security, a problem that has worsened in recent years because of data breaches and cybersecurity hacks, the agency said. In 2021, more than 700 large breaches of health information were reported.

Health insurer Anthem, for example, was forced to pay the government a record $16 million fine in 2018 after a data breach affecting about 79 million people that included names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and medical IDs.

Health workers and patients can file federal complaints against providers, insurers and government agencies when they think patients are being discriminated against or protected health information has been shared, a violation of a longstanding law known as HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HHS’s Office of Civil Rights is responsible for investigating those complaints.

That office will now be reorganized to more quickly investigate such complaints, with a division dedicated to investigating HIPAA complaints, focusing on the growing number of cybersecurity breaches.

It also will have three new divisions to focus on policy, strategic planning and enforcement to help “ensure that we are protecting individuals under the range of federal laws that we are tasked with enforcing,” said Melanie Fontes Rainer, director of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights.

The Latest
Thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s 35 points and Andre Drummond’s 26 rebounds, the Bulls avoided the season sweep by Cleveland with a 132-123 victory. It was a far cry from the performance against Detroit 24 hours earlier.
The announcement Wednesday was a victory for former President Donald Trump’s efforts to delay the criminal case charging him with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election, setting arguments for late April.
All the results from the semifinal and title games in Bloomington-Normal.
The roof and facade of a two-story apartment building in Mundelein were damaged, leaving 21 units uninhabitable and 59 people displaced on a day when the high temperature hit 74 at O’Hare and fell to the upper teens.