May 2, 2019

Health and Human Services lowers fines for HIPAA violations

: U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Health and Human Services reduced its fines for violations of HIPAA — the law requiring health care industries to protect customer data, according to a notice this week in the Federal Register.

Driving the news: The new rules reduce a maximum fine of $1.5 million to a maximum fine of $250,000.

  • HHS claims the changes in fines reflect a better reading of the law.
  • The law is ambiguous and poorly written, supporting both the new and old readings of the law, said Jon Moore, senior vice president and chief risk officer at Clearwater Compliance, a company that helps customers comply with HIPAA.

Details: The changes in fees may fundamentally alter how companies approach compliance fines, said Moore.

  • Investigations into HIPAA fines can take years.
  • "Most organizations who are investigated don’t end up paying penalties. Or they settle and enter a corrective action plan," he said. "But that might change. An organization may say 'I’d rather pay [the lowest-tier fine of] $25,000 than be investigated for years.'"

What to watch: It's hard to say whether the changes will increase or decrease compliance with the law. It's now less costly not to comply. But by decreasing the penalty for complying with the law but still suffering a breach, the changes also make complying more attractive.

Go deeper: Alexa adds new functionalities to comply with HIPAA

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Alaska becomes latest state to issue coronavirus stay-at-home order

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Alaska issued a mandate Friday evening for all people in the state to "remain at their place of residence and practice social distancing" except for those engaged in essential services, including health care and government functions, effective Saturday at 5 p.m.

The big picture: This is the latest state to announce policies to enforce social distancing. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide were asked to stay home Monday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 14 mins ago - Health

Focus group: Minnesota swing voters balk at Trump's Easter deadline

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A group of Midwestern swing voters that supported President Trump's handling of the coronavirus less than two weeks ago is balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter, saying they'll tolerate business closures for as long as it takes to contain the spread.

Why it matters: Their feedback suggests that some voters otherwise mostly supportive of the president — and who still see financial threats outpacing health threats — aren't so tired of social distancing that they're willing to risk ending it too quickly.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 607,965 — Total deaths: 28,125 — Total recoveries: 132,688.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 7 a.m. ET: 104,837 — Total deaths: 1,711 — Total recoveries: 894.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump signed the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill to provide businesses and U.S. workers economic relief.
  4. State updates: North Carolina is latest state to issue stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month.
  5. World updates: Italy reported 969 coronavirus deaths on Friday, the country's deadliest day.
  6. Business latest: President Trump authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to direct General Motors to build ventilators for those affected by COVID-19. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro has been appointed to enforce the act.
  7. 🏰 1 Disney thing: Both Disney World and Disneyland theme parks in the U.S. are closed until further notice.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancing.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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