On September 1, the California legislature passed AB 713, a bill that creates a new healthcare-related exemption under the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (“CCPA”).  All provisions of the bill will take effect immediately to prevent the CCPA from “negatively impact[ing] certain health-related information and research,” except for the required contractual provisions described below.

Under the new exemption, information is not subject to the CCPA’s obligations if it meets both of the following requirements:
Continue Reading California Legislature Adopts CCPA Exemption for Information Deidentified in Accordance with the HIPAA Privacy Rule

Today, the California Senate Judiciary Committee will consider AB 1281, which would extend the California Consumer Privacy Act’s (CCPA) business-to-business and employment exemptions until January 1, 2022, in the event that the pending ballot initiative—which also would extend the exemptions—does not pass this November.

In addition, the Committee will consider two contact tracing measures, AB 660 (Levin) and AB 1782 (Chau).  Both bills could impact private employer and business contact tracing efforts:

  • AB 660 would prohibit use or disclosure of data collected for purposes of contact tracing for any other purposes. It generally would require deletion of such data within 60 days.
  • AB 1782 would require businesses that offer “technology-assisted contact tracing” to satisfy certain requirements, including providing individuals with the opportunity to revoke consent to collection of their personal information and rights to access, correct, and delete personal information. It also requires covered businesses to provide consumers certain disclosures, except where research or other exceptions apply, to delete personal information within 60 days from the time of collection, to maintain security safeguards, and to make available public reporting of the number of individuals whose information has been collected, amongst other content.

Finally, we also are watching SB 980, which passed out of the Senate on June 25, 2020 and is now under consideration by the Assembly.  SB 980 was scheduled for hearing before the Assembly’s Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee on July 28, although that hearing was postponed.  If enacted, the bill would impose certain additional privacy obligations on direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies that go beyond the CCPA, including requiring:
Continue Reading California Legislature Advances Privacy Legislation

In a new post on the Covington Digital Health blog, our colleagues discuss the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announcement of enforcement discretion to “permit compliance flexibilities” for the implementation of the interoperability final rules issued on March 9th, 2020.  The final rules are intended to improve patient access to electronic health information

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker is working on draft legislation that would regulate the collection and use of health and location information in connection with efforts to track and limit the spread of COVID-19.   Some key highlights of the tentatively titled “COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act” include:
Continue Reading Republicans Poised To Introduce COVID-19 Privacy Bill

On April 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued a Notification of Enforcement Discretion (the “Notification”) regarding the disclosure of protected health information (“PHI”) to public health authorities and use of PHI to perform analytics for such authorities.  Designed to “facilitate uses and disclosures for public health and health oversight activities during this nationwide public health emergency,” the Notification relaxes HHS’s enforcement of certain provisions of the Privacy Rule issued  under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”).  More specifically, the Notification announces that, under certain circumstances, HHS will not impose penalties for violations of such provisions against covered health care providers and their business associates for the use and disclosure of PHI “by business associates for public health and health oversight activities” in connection with the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
Continue Reading HHS Seeks to Facilitate Certain Uses and Disclosures of Health Data to Public Health and Health Oversight Agencies Amidst COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency

This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued guidance waiving enforcement of certain provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) in response to the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
Continue Reading HHS Relaxes Enforcement of Certain HIPAA Provisions Amidst COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency

Last week, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Protecting Personal Health Data Act (S. 1842), which would provide new privacy and security rules from the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) for technologies that collect personal health data, such as wearable fitness trackers, social-media sites focused on health data or conditions, and direct-to-consumer genetic testing services, among other technologies. Specifically, the legislation would direct the HHS Secretary to issue regulations relating to the privacy and security of health-related consumer devices, services, applications, and software. These new regulations will also cover a new category of personal health data that is otherwise not protected health information under HIPAA.

Continue Reading Legislation Seeks to Regulate Privacy and Security of Wearables and Genetic Testing Kits

On April 30, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published in the Federal Register a notification of enforcement discretion indicating that it will lower the annual Civil Money Penalty (CMP) limits for three of the four penalty tiers in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act).  The HITECH Act categorizes violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) in four tiers based on the violators’ level of culpability for the violation: the person did not know (and, by exercising reasonable diligence, would not have known) that the person violated the provision (Tier 1); the violation was due to reasonable cause, and not willful neglect (Tier 2); the violation was due to willful neglect that is timely corrected (Tier 3); and the violation was due to willful neglect that is not timely corrected (Tier 4).

The maximum penalty per violation for all four tiers was previously $1.5 million.  HHS’s new policy states that the annual penalty limit for Tier 1 violations has now been decreased from $1.5 million to $25,000.  The new annual penalty limits for Tier 2 and 3 violations are now $100,000 and $250,000, respectively.  The penalty limit for Tier 4 violations will remain at $1.5 million.
Continue Reading HHS Updates Maximum Annual Penalty Limits for Some HIPAA Violations

On April 19, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a 30-day extension, until June 3, 2019, to the comment period for two rules proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The CMS proposed rule aims to

Hospitals and other health care organizations are attractive targets for cyber-attacks, in part because their databases contain medical records and other sensitive information. Breaches of this information could have very serious implications for patients.  Moreover, electronics connected to a health care facility’s network keep people alive, distribute medicines, and monitor vital signs. As a result, disruption to the operations of health care facilities could pose a very real risk to health and safety.  Such risks are becoming more than theoretical.  For instance, the WannaCry attack disrupted a third of the United Kingdom’s Health Service organizations by cancelling appointments and disturbing operations.

In recognition of the imperative for cybersecurity in the health care sector, in late December 2018 the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) released voluntary cybersecurity guidance, titled “Health Industry Cybersecurity Practices: Managing Threats and Protecting Patients,” (“HHS Cybersecurity Guidance”).  The HHS Cybersecurity Guidance is intended to shepherd healthcare organizations through the process of planning for and implementing cybersecurity controls. It was authored by the Health Sector Coordinating Council, comprised of more than 150 cybersecurity and healthcare experts from government and industry, and was required by Section 405(d) of the Cybersecurity Act of 2015.

Continue Reading HHS Releases Voluntary Cybersecurity Guidance