Action packed day!

HHS released a proposed rule implementing various provisions of the HITECH Act which beefed up the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules applicable to health plans, health care providers, healthcare clearinghouses and their business associates.  According to the HHS release (because I have not read the 234 page proposed rule yet)

The proposed rule announced today would strengthen and expand enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules by:

  • expanding individuals’ rights to access their information and to restrict certain types of disclosures of protected health information to health plans. 

  • requiring business associates of HIPAA-covered entities to be under most of the same rules as the covered entities;

  • setting new limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information for marketing and fundraising; and

  • prohibiting the sale of protected health information without patient authorization.

HHS is inviting public comment on the proposed rule for 60 days beginning on July 14.

The Boston Globe reports that a federal district judge in that state, Joseph L. Tauro, ruled today that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is unconstitutional.  DOMA requires that the term spouse when used in a federal statute (as it is in Section 8902 of the FEHB Act defining a covered family member) must be limited to an opposite sex partner.  The individual plaintiffs in this case include federal and postal employees who wanted FEHB coverage for their same sex spouses (as same sex marriage is lawful in Massachusetts).  The Judge concluded that DOMA runs afoul of the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. We will have to see what happens now. Probably an appeal. A copy of the Court’s opinion in the Gill case is available here and its opinion in the Massachusetts case is here.

The Hartford Courant reports that America’s Health Insurance Plans, AHIP, announced that the board elected Vicky Gregg to a one-year term as chair. Gregg is president and chief executive officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. She succeeds Jay Gellert, president and CEO of Health Net Inc. of Woodland Hills, California.