CEO Best Practices Managed Services

The Strict Penalties for Violating HIPAA Laws That You Want To Avoid

If you work in the healthcare industry, then you already know how important it is to follow HIPAA regulations. Many companies who are serious about maintaining their adherence invest in a third-party expert to help them make sure their systems are HIPAA compliant. But, as we very well know, there are also many companies who haven’t taken that precaution yet. They may say it’s because of the budget, the time, or, they feel that their IT team already has it all taken care of.

But, if you’re not cyber-compliant and a data breach occurs, you will have violated HIPAA laws. When that happens, you can expect a huge penalty. Not only that, but you will you risk losing patients and potentially your entire business. Why take the risk? If you violate those HIPAA laws, here are the penalties you could be looking at:

The Categories of HIPAA Violations

When it comes to violating HIPAA laws, there are four categories the violation can fall under. The first category is when a violation could not have easily been avoided, even with proper care, whereas the fourth category is complete willful neglect, without any attempt to repair the violation. Of course, everything in between that gets gradually more severe from level one. Depending on what category the violation falls under, it will determine how much your fine will be.

  • Category One: (Someone who did not know they violated HIPAA) A minimum of $100, maximum, $50,000.
  • Category Two: (A violation someone should have been aware of, but could not have avoided) A minimum of $1,000, maximum of $50,000.
  • Category Three: (A violation due to willful neglect, but that tried to be repaired) A minimum of $10,000, maximum of $50,000.
  • Category Four: (Complete neglect without any attempt to repair the violation) A minimum of $50,000.

So, what constitutes “willful neglect” and how are these amounts determined? In this case, “willful neglect” means “conscious, intentional failure or reckless indifference to the obligation to comply with the administrative simplification provision violated.” As far as the fines go, the Office of Civil Rights, or the OCR, determines the amount based on the nature and extent of the harm done to the individual or individuals whose information was taken in the breach.

The Chance of Jail Time

Not only does a HIPAA violation incur a monetary penalty, but it can also result in jail time. In most cases, this wouldn’t affect an ordinary healthcare office that experiences an unfortunate breach one time. Jail time would be given to someone accused of disclosing private information about patients as a criminal offense.

There are tiers to this as well. The first tier is when someone deliberately acquires someone’s information. The second tier is acquiring the information through deception. And, the third tier is using the information to make a profit. In addition to a hefty fine, jail time can be anything from one year to ten years in prison.

Remember, even if you’re not directly responsible, if you run an office, you are responsible for your staff. You never know when private information can fall into the wrong hands.

Who Does the Prosecuting?

A patient’s privacy when they walk into any doctor’s office is their right. Therefore, it’s no wonder HIPAA violations are taken very seriously. If you violate HIPAA laws, you won’t just be dealing with that patient’s lawyer. You’ll be dealing with the United States’ Government.

Those in charge of enforcing HIPAA laws include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and as mentioned before, the Office Of Civil Rights (OCR).

Why HIPAA Compliance is So Important

Last but not least, it’s important to know that you can still be hit with a penalty even if a data breach never occurred. How? Well, if you’re not taking the steps to be HIPAA compliant and an auditor shows up at your office, they can fine you just for not being responsible.

Why wait until that happens? If you work in the healthcare industry, it’s your job to protect your patients’ privacy as well as the jobs of your employees, which could be in jeopardy if there is a breach. Being HIPAA compliant isn’t hard to do. Just hire a third-party service provider to check your system. That’s it!

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