HHS Releases Communication Checklist to Aid First Responders

HHS Releases Checklist to Aid First Responders in Communicating Effectively with Patients The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has released a plain language checklist that is intended to aid First Responders during emergencies that involve individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and communications related disabilities. The AAA issued numerous articles to its members in 2016 about the newly published requirements for all healthcare providers, including EMS agencies, under the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1557. The requirements are intended to prevent discrimination in the provision of healthcare and ensure that all individuals can meaningfully participate in their healthcare treatment, including those patients with LEP and other communications related disabilities. The announcement yesterday is intended to provide additional resources for healthcare providers to ensure compliance with the ACA Section 1557. The checklist includes numerous recommendations and action steps that EMS agencies can utilize to ensure that they are serving all members of a community in a meaningful way. These recommendations include conducting research about the communities by accessing U.S. Census Bureau data, engaging Centers for Independent Living and local assistance groups, and by preparing emergency messaging that can be...

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HIPAA Breach Results in Highest Settlement in OCR History

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced earlier this month that is has entered into the largest settlement agreement in the history of the Department with Anthem, Inc., the largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield health benefit companies in the country.  Anthem, Inc. agreed to pay $16 million to HHS and take substantial corrective action to settle numerous potential violations of both HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules after it exposed protected health information (PHI) for nearly 79 million people. In March 2015 Anthem filed a breach report with OCR after they discovered that their Information Technology (IT) systems were infiltrated by cyber-attackers who had gained access to their systems after an Anthem employee opened a phishing email.  This email released an undetected continuous persistent threat attack that permitted the cyber-attackers to access their systems from December 2014 through the end of January 2015.  This attack opened access that ultimately resulted in the PHI of nearly 79 million people to be stolen. OCR’s investigation revealed that Anthem failed to conduct an enterprise-wide risk analysis.  Additionally, OCR determined that Anthem “failed to have sufficient policies and procedures to regularly review IT system activity, identify...

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Update on Section 1557 of ACA

This past June the AAA notified our members of the new Non-Discrimination Rules under Section 1557 of the ACA. Under the new rules, covered entities are required to provide auxiliary aides and services for individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and communications related disabilities. For a full description of all of the Section 1557 requirements, see the AAA Member Advisories. While there is usually a period of time before enforcement actions occur with new Regulations, the Office of Civil Rights published a press release announcing a Voluntary Resolution Agreement between the OCR, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Connecticut (DOJ), and a healthcare system who is subject to the Section 1557 Rules. The Agreement, which resolved a complaint and subsequent investigation involving a hearing impaired patient who requested auxiliary aides due to a hearing impairment upon arriving at the hospital for care. The patient never received any communication aides during the course of the stay. This should serve as a notice to all ambulance providers that they must comply with all of the requirements of the Section 1557 Rules. For assistance or guidance on the requirements of Section 1557 and how ambulance services can be comply, be sure...

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