Jerome Meites, a chief regional civil rights counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), provided important insight into upcoming HIPAA enforcement at the recent American Bar Association conference in Chicago .  Since June 2013, over $10 million has been paid by entities to settle alleged HIPAA violations.  Mr. Meites predicted that, based on his knowledge of “what’s in the pipeline,” fines and penalties paid for HIPAA settlements will increase in the next year.  Law360 asked Mr. Meites the reason he predicts increased HIPAA enforcement activity, to which he replied that HHS thinks it “can affect the industry with high-impact cases.”

Mr. Meites also provided an update on HHS’s HIPAA audit program.  Earlier this year, HHS announced that it plans to continue its audit program initially piloted in 2012 by surveying 1,200 entities in order to identify audit targets.  Mr. Meites said that audit targets have not yet been selected, and it is likely that significantly fewer than 1,200 entities will be included in the program.  He added that audits should begin later this year and continue into 2015.

In anticipation of this heightened enforcement environment, both Covered Entities and Business Associates are advised to shore up their HIPAA compliance infrastructures by confirming that sufficient policies, procedures, safeguards, and agreements are all in place and up to date.  For further information regarding historical HIPAA enforcement, please refer to our HIPAA enforcement tracker located under the “Trackers and Presentations” section on this page and under the “Resources” tab above.