Fed pledges to cut health care investigation backlog

Fed pledges to cut health care investigation backlog

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal officials said Monday they are working to reduce a growing backlog of complaints filed against health care providers, insurers or government agencies by patients who say their civil rights or privacy have been violated.

Americans filed more than 51,000 complaints against health organizations last year, a number that has risen dramatically — 69% — over the past five years, the federal Health and Human Services Agency announced. Some complaints can take years to investigate.

About two-thirds of the cases involve potential breaches of health information privacy and security, a problem that has worsened in recent years due to data breaches and cybersecurity hacks, the agency said. In 2021, more than 700 major health data breaches were reported. Health insurers Music, for example, was forced to pay a record $16 million to the government Fines in 2018 after data breaches affected about 79 million people — including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and medical IDs.

Health care workers and patients can file federal complaints against providers, insurers and government agencies when they believe patients are being discriminated against or have protected health information, a violation of a longstanding law known as HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability. Act. HHS’s Office of Civil Rights is responsible for investigating those complaints

The agency said Monday the office will be reorganized in an effort to investigate such complaints more quickly.

The Office will maintain a dedicated division to investigate HIPAA complaints, with a focus on the growing segment of cyber security breaches. It will have three new separate departments with staff that will focus on each of the following: policy, strategic planning and implementation.

HHS Office of Civil Rights Director Melanie Fontes Reiner said in a statement, “This framework will enable OCR staff to leverage its deep expertise and expertise to ensure that we are protecting individuals under the federal laws we are charged with enforcing.”

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