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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

HHS Solicits Input on HIPAA’s Potential Barriers to Care Coordination

December 13, 2018 | Privacy & HIPAA | Comments
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On Wednesday, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a widely anticipated request for information on how the current Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules may impede the transformation to coordinated, value-based health care. HHS is welcoming comments on “how the rules could be revised to promote these goals, while preserving and protecting the privacy and security of such information and individuals’ rights with respect to it.” The announcement suggests that the agency may be considering big changes to HIPAA. Responses to the RFI are due February 11, 2019.  

BACKGROUND

This RFI is a part of the Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care, an initiative led by HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan to revise regulations that will help advance the transition to coordinated, value-based care, including HIPAA. The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects individuals’ medical records and other individually identifiable health information, known as “protected health information” (PHI). In a statement accompanying the extensive list of questions in the RFI, Deputy Secretary Hargan also linked the effort to the opioid crisis, saying, “we’ve heard stories about how the Privacy Rule can get in the way of patients and families getting the help they need.”

In addition to requesting broad input on the HIPAA Rules, the RFI has a specific focus on the HIPAA Privacy Rule, including:

  • Addressing the opioid crisis and serious mental illness;
  • Encouraging information-sharing for treatment and care coordination;
  • Facilitating parental involvement in care;
  • Accounting for disclosures of PHI for treatment, payment, and health care operations (TPO) as required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009; and
  • Changing the current requirement for certain providers to make a good faith effort to obtain an acknowledgment of receipt of the Notice of Privacy Practices.

WHAT’S NEXT?

HHS has several pending items that coincide with the HIPAA request and broader work to advance the transition to value-based care. Most immediately, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator is expected to release its proposed rule to combat the threat of information blocking. HHS officials have also signaled they are working on changes to 42 CFR Part 2, the regulation that governs substance use treatment records, with the intent of making it easier for doctors, hospitals, and payers to coordinate in delivering value-based care and fighting the opioid addiction crisis.