: 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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Updated 19 mins ago - Health

U.S. daily coronavirus cases top 50,000 for first time

A medical technologist processes test samples for the coronavirus at a lab in Tampa, Florida, on June 25. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

A record 50,655 tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the United States on Wednesday, Johns Hopkins data shows.

Driving the news: The pandemic is accelerating across the U.S., with the Sun Belt being hit particularly hard. Daily coronavirus case records were reported on Wednesday in Texas (8,076), Georgia (2,946), North Carolina (1,843) and Tennessee (1,806).

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 10,667,217 — Total deaths: 515,646 — Total recoveries — 5,464,367Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of midnight ET: 2,685,806 — Total deaths: 128,061 — Total recoveries: 729,994 — Total tested: 32,827,359Map.
  3. Federal government: Trump says he still thinks coronavirus will "just disappear" at some point, supports another round of direct payments to Americans.
  4. Public health: Thanks to coronavirus, your home is now your gymFormer FDA chief says 500,000 Americans may be contracting coronavirus a day.
  5. States: Georgia and Arizona report record new coronavirus cases — California shuts down bars and indoor dining for most residents.
  6. 1 ⚽️ thing: 6 players test positive for coronavirus before MLS comeback tournament.
Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden outraises Trump again with record $141 million June haul

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden at Philadelphia City Hall in Pennsylvania in June. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party raised $141 million in June, his campaign announced on Wednesday night.

Why it matters: It's the most the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has raised in a month. It's also more than the record $131 million President Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee raised last month.