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Will a New Bill Virtually Eliminate the HITECH Act?

by on February 3, 2011

Recently legislation was introduced into the house that has some some backers of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act 2009) up in arms. According to a recent article, the bill would “cut federal spending by $2.5 trillion over 10 years would rescind any unobligated funds for the HITECH Act.”

Computer_law The HITECH Act expanded and tightened key aspects of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.  Included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), HITECH has a profound impact on the way data is managed and secured at covered entities by:

  • Mandating patient notification in the event of a breach
  • Restricting the disclosure of individual personal health information (PHI)
  • Expanding the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule to include Business Associates
  • Aggressively enforcing HIPAA’s Security Rule and HITECH provisions
  • Pushing an industry-wide migration towards Electronic Health Records (EHR), and
  • Instituting higher penalties through greater enforcement for non-compliance

Fortunately, the HIPAA Act compelled most covered entities to pursue these activities years ago; for them, the core demands of HITECH have been manageable.  And except for those entities wishing to embark on full-scale EHR or encryption implementation, no new roles or activities such as risk assessments or incident response processes needed to be built from scratch.  Nonetheless, the HITECH Act brought with it a broad scope whose heightened penalties for non-compliance had entities of all sizes re-examining and, in certain instances, expanding key data center activities and processes to ensure compliance.

This new bill would essentially repeal the HITECH Act through deep budget cuts.However, although alarming to some, political insiders don’t think their are enough votes to withstand oppositon in the Senate or a presidential veto.

What is your take on HITECH? Have you had any trouble implementing the rules and adhering to compliance regulations?

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