The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just made a big announcement. They’ve reached a settlement with UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company (“UHIC”), one of the largest health insurers in the country, regarding a potential violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule’s right of access provision. 

This means patients should have quick and easy access to their health information. What’s incredible is that this is now the 45th Right of Access case to be resolved through voluntary settlement. To make things right, UHIC has agreed to put an action plan into place and pay $80,000. It’s great to see progress being made to protect patient rights!

Protecting Patient Rights: OCR’s Commitment to Covered Entity’s Accountability

Melanie Fontes Rainer, Director of OCR, emphasized the importance of timely health information access by stating, “Timely access to health information is one of the cornerstones of HIPAA.” She reaffirmed OCR’s commitment to holding covered entities accountable for delaying or denying access requests. Rainer made it clear that health insurers are not exempt from ensuring patient rights and must train their workforce accordingly.

Looking Behind the Investigation: The Complaint that Shook Things Up

In March 2021, a complaint landed on OCR’s desk that shook things up. It accused UHIC of ignoring someone’s plea for their own medical records. The poor individual had first requested those important documents way back on January 7, 2021! But the real shocker came when we learned they didn’t receive what was rightfully theirs until July 2021, and only after OCR stepped in to investigate.

Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t the first time our friend here had complained about UHIC’s lackluster response to their right of access. Nope, this was actually the third time they’ve had to bring it to our attention. So, after digging deeper into the matter, OCR found that UHIC might just be guilty of violating the HIPAA right of access provision by not providing timely access to those crucial medical records.

Taking Action to Protect Your Health Information: UHIC’s Commitment & How to Get Involved

UHIC not only reached a monetary settlement, but they also took further steps to rectify their actions. This includes implementing a thorough corrective action plan that the OCR will monitor for an entire year. This outcome serves as a reminder that enforcement actions will be taken against entities delaying or denying access requests, reinforcing the commitment to protecting individuals’ health information under HIPAA regulations.

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