OCR issuing fewer HIPAA penalties in 2018, report suggests

The HHS Office for Civil Rights is on track to impose significantly fewer HIPAA settlement fines in 2018 than the agency has in previous years, according to a report from the law firm Gibson Dunn.

The July 26 report is a mid-year review of healthcare enforcement actions, including decisions by HHS, CMS, OCR and the Justice Department.

Since HIPAA privacy rules went into effect in 2003, OCR has reviewed and resolved more than 180,000 complaints related to the legislation. In 2017, the civil rights office issued 10 penalties totaling $19.4 million, and in 2016, the office issued 13 penalties totaling $23.5 million.

As of July, OCR has reported only two HIPAA penalties in 2018, along with one decision from an HHS administrative law judge. The three decisions amount to an estimated $7.9 million in fines.

Gibson Dunn noted its unclear whether the downtick in HIPAA enforcement actions during the first half of 2018 signals a shift in priorities, or whether the civil rights office intends to pursue more settlements in the second half of the year.

However, if OCR continues at this pace throughout the remainder of 2018, the year will mark a "dramatic decline in HIPAA enforcement actions," the report says.

To download Gibson Dunn's report, click here.

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