HHS Announces Reorganization of Office for Civil Rights
By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it will reorganize the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the law enforcement arm for the agency, to better monitor regulations around the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act.
First, OCR will change the Health Information Privacy Division to the Health Information Privacy, Data, and Cybersecurity Division. Second, OCR has formed the Enforcement Division, the Policy Division, and the Strategic Planning Division. Third, the department is reshuffling the existing Health Information Privacy, Operations and Resources, Civil Rights, and the Conscience and Religious Freedom divisions to fit into the three areas of enforcement, policy, and strategy.
“OCR’s caseload has multiplied in recent years, increasing to over 51,000 complaints in 2022, an increase of 69% between 2017 and 2022, with 27% alleged violations of civil rights, 7% alleged violations of conscience/religious freedom, and 66% alleged violations of health information privacy and security laws,” OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer said in a news release. “Today’s reorganization improves OCR’s ability to effectively respond to complaints.”
Days earlier, OCR delivered to Congress a mix of good news and bad news. In 2021, the department received 609 breach notifications affecting 500 or more individuals, representing a decline of 7% from 2020. However, OCR reported it received 34,077 new complaints alleging violations of HIPAA and HITECH in 2021, a 25% increase from 2020.
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