Update on HIPAA Business Associate Regulations — OCR Says They Still Aren’t Ready, Gives No Date

In a notice apparently posted March 17, 2010, the Office of Civic Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (“OCR”) acknowledged its delay in issuing regulations for HIPAA business associate agreements.  Those regulations are now a month overdue and from OCR’s language, they do not appear imminent:

OCR will implement important privacy and security provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act through notice and comment rulemaking, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.  These provisions include: business associate liability; new limitations on the sale of protected health information, marketing, and fundraising communications; and stronger individual rights to access electronic medical records and restrict the disclosure of certain information.  OCR continues work on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding these provisions.  Although the effective date (February 17, 2010) for many of these HITECH Act provisions has passed, the NPRM and the final rule that follows will provide specific information regarding the expected date of compliance and enforcement of these new requirements.

(Emphasis added.)  What does seem clear from this notice is that OCR enforcement of the underlying law is not imminent and that more guidance on that will come when the regulations are issued

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