By Anna Kraus

Last Thursday, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the preliminary regulatory review plans of 30 federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  The regulatory review plans were mandated by President Obama in an executive order issued earlier this year, and are intended to identify initiatives to reduce burdens and save money.

In HHS’s regulatory review plan, available here, the Department states that it is undertaking revisions to the HIPAA requirements in order to:

  • streamline the process for children to be enrolled in schools;
  • facilitate the ability of individuals to access their own health information; and
  • ease burdens on health plans while ensuring that beneficiaries receive notice of material changes to their plans.

As part of this effort, HHS intends to review existing HIPAA regulations related to disclosures of student immunizations to schools, accounting of disclosures requirements, and requirements on health plans to redistribute to individuals their notices of privacy practices when material changes are made.

The HHS plan also references the proposed modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to streamline the authorization requirements for research, stating that the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is “working to finalize changes in this area as part of a broader rulemaking that includes final modifications to the HIPAA Rules pursuant to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, as well as a final Breach Notification Rule.”

The plan suggests that we will be seeing more changes to the HIPAA regulations in the future, beyond those contemplated in the proposed rule implementing the HITECH Act.  Indeed, OCR on Friday issued a proposed rule containing modifications to the requirement for an accounting of disclosure, which we will discuss in a subsequent entry.