Beginning September 23, 2013, compliance with the revised Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") privacy and security rules is mandatory. These rules implement most requirements of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act ("HITECH").

Who must comply?

Most employer-sponsored group health plans1 must comply, including the following:

  • self-insured medical, dental and vision plans
  • health care flexible spending accounts (FSAs)
  • health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)
  • governmental health plans and church plans
  • most employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • most long-term care plans

What must be done?

The steps your plan needs to take will vary depending on your current compliance and plan structure. However, in order to meet the new requirements, at least the following steps must be taken:

  • revising and distributing the plan notice of privacy practices
  • revising policies and procedures
  • updating business associate agreements
  • entering into revised business associate agreements with vendors
  • training workforce members on the new requirements

Why is this important?

HITECH significantly increased the civil penalties for violating HIPAA. Further, OCR2 is enforcing HIPAA more aggressively and is auditing covered entities for compliance. The breach notification requirements make enforcement reviews more likely (in the event of a data breach). Now is the time for employers to focus their attention (again!) on HIPAA to help reduce the likelihood of violations and prepare for the possibility of an OCR audit.