Volume 14 | February 2021
First Criminal Indictment Related to CARES Act Provider Relief Fund

On February 11, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced the first criminal charges for the misappropriation of funds designated for medical providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the press release, Ms. Amina Abbas owned a home health business (“1 on 1 Home Health”) that she closed after receiving an overpayment demand above $1.6 million. The overpayment demand arose because Ms. Abbas allegedly submitted claims for patients that did not qualify for home health services. Important to the indictment is the allegation that 1 on 1 Home Health was not operational during the pandemic. Despite not being operational, Ms. Abbas received over $37,000 for 1 on 1 Home Health. The money she received was from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund, a fund for healthcare providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government also alleges that Ms. Abbas disbursed the COVID-19 related funds to family members for personal use. Ms. Abbas was indicted for embezzlement of government property, marking the first criminal charge “for the intentional misuse of funds intended to provide relief to health care providers.”

This is likely the first of many such enforcement actions. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government passed the CARES Act, authorizing billions in funds through various initiatives like the Provider Relief Fund and the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP"). The CARES Act contains several provisions establishing strict oversight over the distributed funds, and dedicating resources to investigating and punishing fraud, waste, and abuse. CG attorneys discussed some of the layers of oversight created by the CARES Act, which can be read here.  CG attorneys also provided a webinar with an overview (current as of June 2020) regarding the Provider Relief Fund and practical tips regarding compliance and avoiding liability. The webinar is free and can be watched on-demand here. Overall, the government has been clear that enforcement actions and focus on CARES Act funds, including Provider Relief Funds, will remain a top priority. 
Eleventh Circuit Rules Sincere Belief Is Not Necessarily Reasonable Under FCA Retaliation Provision

In a decision last month, the Eleventh Circuit brought clarity to one of the requirements an employee must fulfill in order to bring a retaliation claim under the False Claims Act (“FCA”). Specifically, the court found that simply because an employee sincerely believes that their employer is violating the FCA does not mean their belief is reasonable. In order to maintain a retaliation claim under the FCA, the employee’s belief that he or she is attempting to prevent false claims from being submitted to the federal government must be reasonable. In Hickman v. Spirit of Athens, Alabama, Inc., No. 19-10945, 2021 WL 164322 (11th Cir. Jan. 19, 2021), the Eleventh Circuit ruled that two employees of a non-profit organization did not hold a reasonable belief that they were preventing false claims from being submitted to the government.

Spirit of Athens’s executive director discovered expenses in the organization’s tax returns that she believed were inappropriate. Specifically, $61,000 in expenses were classified as “other expenses.” The total revenue of the organization was only $113,000, so she thought the $61,000 in other expenses was unusual. The executive director brought the issue to the attention of the President, but he signed the tax return anyway. The executive director and her assistant then had the tax returns sent to board members and had an outside firm audit the tax returns. The president then fired the two employees, who subsequently brought FCA retaliation claims against the organization.

The Eleventh Circuit found that, even though the employees held a sincere belief that they were attempting to prevent false claims from being submitted to the government, their belief was not reasonable. That was because the process through which the organization received funds from the federal government did not actually require the organization to submit any claims to the federal government. Because no claims were actually submitted to the government, there could be no FCA violation, and it was unreasonable for the employees to believe they were attempting to prevent the submission of any false claims to the government. This case contains a lesson for employees attempting to bring to light the purported submission false claims to the government – employees must understand the process through which their employers receive money from the government. Regular fraud is not enough to establish a False Claims Act violation. There must be false claims actually submitted to the government. Without the submission of any false claims, employees cannot avail themselves of the FCA’s anti-retaliation provision.

FREE Webinars

On March 12 at 10 a.m., Chilivis Grubman partner Randy Dalbey will join Donna Grindle of Kardon to present a FREE one-hour webinar entitled HIPAA 2021 - A KINDLER, GENTLER HIPAA? You can register for this webinar for FREE here.
Last month, Chilivis Grubman attorneys Scott Grubman and Christian Dennis presented a webinar entitled New Year, Same Risks: Healthcare Fraud and Abuse in the Biden Era. If you missed the webinar, you can watch it for FREE on demand here.
Chilivis Grubman News

This month, three Chilivis Grubman attorneys — Scott GrubmanRandy Dalbey, and Christian Dennis — were selected as 2021 Super Lawyers and Rising Stars. The Super Lawyers list recognizes no more than 5 percent of attorneys in each state. The Rising Stars list recognizes no more than 2.5 percent of attorneys in each state.
Electronic Health Records Company Agrees to Pay $18.25 Million to Resolve Illegal Kickback Allegations

The Department of Justice ("DOJ") recently announced that Athenahealth, Inc. ("Athena"), an electronic health record (“EHR”) vendor, has agreed to pay $18.25 million to settle claims that it violated the False Claims Act (“FCA”). Athena allegedly implemented various marketing programs involving the payment of illegal kickbacks that were designed to boost sales of the company’s EHR product. 

Three different, illegal marketing schemes are detailed in a complaint filed by the DOJ in connection with the settlement announcement:

  • “Concierge Events” – The DOJ alleges that Athena invited current and prospective customers to all-expense-paid sporting and entertainment events, including the Masters golf tournament, the Kentucky Derby, the Indy 500, and New York Fashion Week. Specifically, Athena targeted individuals who were in a position to influence or make decisions regarding the selection of an EHR vendor. 

  • “Client Lead Generation” – From January 2014 to September 2020, Athena allegedly offered and made payments to existing clients for new client referrals. The amount of the payment was calculated based on the volume of business that was referred but could be as much as $3,000 per physician that signed up for one of Athena’s services. 

  • “Conversion Deals” – Athena allegedly paid money to competitors who were terminating their EHR offerings to recommend that their users convert to Athena’s products. Pursuant to these agreements, Athena paid its competitors based on the volume of practices that were successfully converted to Athena customers. 

The settlement highlights the DOJ’s continued focus on holding EHR companies accountable for the payment of unlawful kickbacks. According to Brian Boynton, Acting Attorney General for the Civil Division, “EHR technology plays an important role in the provision of medical care, and it is critical that the selection of an EHR platform be made without the influence of improper financial inducements." 
SEC Charges Investment Advisor with Running Billion Dollar Ponzi Scheme

In a press release on February 4, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that it was bringing charges against three individuals and their affiliated entities in connection with a Ponzi scheme involving $1.7 billion in funds. The SEC alleges that David Gentile, the owner and CEO of GPB Capital, and Jeffry Schneider, the owner of GPB Capital’s placement agent Ascendant Capital, made annual distributions that included funds from investors own capital rather than from profit generated from the funds’ portfolio companies. The SEC also alleged that Gentile and Jeffrey Lash, a former managing partner at GPB Capital, manipulated the financial statements of certain funds managed by GPB Capital to deceive investors and give them a false impression regarding the finances of the funds. GPB Capital also allegedly failed to register some of its funds with the SEC and failed to issue audited financial statements. The SEC also charged GPB Capital with violating SEC whistleblower protections by including prohibited language in separation agreements and retaliating against a known whistleblower.

Ponzi schemes are not always the complete fraud that people envision when they think of Charles Ponzi or Bernie Madoff. Legitimate investment funds can run afoul of the SEC’s antifraud rules if they do not take steps to ensure capital funds stay sequestered from funds used for distributions to investors. In difficult economic times, investment advisors and fund managers may be tempted to dip into a fund’s capital in order to meet the distribution expectations of investors. While tempting, and possibly done with good intentions, this exposes funds and investment advisors to potential enforcement actions by the SEC or the Department of Justice. To prevent this scrutiny, it is crucial that funds issue audited financial statements on an annual basis and put safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of capital funds.

This case also demonstrates the SEC’s strong efforts to protect whistleblowers. The SEC relies heavily on whistleblowers to reveal potential fraud to SEC. Fraud, by its nature, is concealed from the prying eyes of both curious investors and the SEC. Whistleblowers are crucial in pealing back the shades and revealing fraud. Therefore, the SEC provides whistleblowers with a portion of any recovery against individuals and entities that the whistleblower has reported, incentivizing them to come forward and report potential wrongdoing. Further, there are protections in place to prevent retaliation and ensure that previous employees are not hampered in bringing fraud to the attention of the government.  

On November 6, 2020, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh granted defendants’ motions to dismiss a False Claims Act (“FCA”) lawsuit based, in part, on the public disclosure bar, holding that the information available and acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) report cannot be a basis for an FCA action. The case is captioned United States ex rel. Jones v. Sutter Health, No. 18-CV-02067-LHK, 2020 WL 6544412 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 6, 2020).

The FCA contains a “qui tam” provision, which allows private citizens to act on behalf of the government and sue parties who defraud the government. These private citizens are known as relators or informally called “whistleblowers.” Generally, unless a relator is an original source (as defined by 31 U.S.C. § 3730(e)(4)), the relator is prohibited from bringing an FCA lawsuit based on a fraud disclosed through certain public channels. Specifically, “[t]he court shall dismiss” a qui tam action “if substantially the same allegations or transactions as alleged in the action or claim were publicly disclosed” in any of several sources.  Id.; 31 U.S.C. § 3730(e)(4)(A).  

Courts must decide whether the allegations serving as the basis of the FCA lawsuit were previously disclosed and, if so, whether the relator meets the “original source” definition. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court held that FOIA reports fall within the public disclosure bar prohibition.  Schindler Elevator Corp. v. U.S. ex rel. Kirk, 563 U.S. 401, 404 (2011). The Supreme Court noted that the public disclosure bar discourages opportunistic litigation, explaining that “[a]nyone could identify a few regulatory filing and certification requirements, submit FOIA requests until he discovers a federal contractor who is out of compliance, and potentially reap a windfall in a qui tam action under the FCA.” Id. at 414.

In Sutter Health, the Court cited the public disclosure bar provisions and noted that “[o]ne source covered by the public disclosure bar is a federal report” and that a FOIA report constitutes a “report” within the meaning of the public disclosure bar. Since the relator in Sutter Health also used a FOIA report, which contained the material elements of the alleged fraudulent transaction, the Court noted that the Supreme Court’s Shingler Elevator opinion controls. Based on the information in the FOIA report, the relator’s evidence and information were possessed by the government when the FCA suit was brought, and the government had sufficient information to enable it to investigate the case and to decide whether to prosecute. The relator’s suit based on a FOIA report was “a paradigmatic example of a suit foreclosed by the public disclosure bar,” according to the Court. 

To maintain the suit, the Sutter Health relator had to fall within the “original source” definition. A relator may be considered an original source if the relator (1) has voluntarily disclosed to the Government the information on which allegations or transactions in a claim are based, or (2) has knowledge that is independent of and materially adds to the publicly disclosed allegations or transactions, and who has voluntarily informed the Government before suing. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(e)(4)(B). According to the Sutter Health Court (citing various jurisdictions), the relator had to overcome the “meaningful hurdle” and “rigorous” thresholds for satisfying materiality to be considered an original source. Based on the information presented by the relator, the Court determined that the relator did not have “knowledge that is independent of and materially adds to the publicly disclosed allegations or transactions,” and was not an original source. 
New President, New Attorney General: The Future of the False Claims Act

On January 7, 2021, President Biden announced that Merrick Garland would be his nominee to serve as Attorney General. As the Senate inches closer to confirmation hearings, many are scrutinizing Garland’s past record as a prosecutor and judge to determine what Garland’s appointment might mean for the future of the Department of Justice. Although Garland’s experience with the False Claims Act (“FCA”) appears to be minimal, his judicial opinions indicate that he views the FCAnn as a broad and powerful arrow in the government’s quiver. 

Biden’s nomination is not the first time that Garland’s views of the FCA have fallen under scrutiny. As part of his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Obama, Garland identified two FCA opinions in his Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees

In U.S. ex rel. Tesudian v. Howard University (1998), Garland, writing for the majority, addressed the standards for a whistleblower asserting retaliation claims under the FCA. Overruling the district court, the D.C. Circuit held that the FCA does not require a whistleblower to have brought or even threatened an FCA investigation or lawsuit against his employer in order to bring a retaliation claim. Indeed, a whistleblower need not even know that certain conduct would violate the FCA, but merely need only be investigating activity that could reasonably lead to an FCA case in order to engage in protected activity.  

Later, in U.S. ex rel. Totten v. Bombadier Corp (2004), the D.C. Circuit held that an invoice submitted to Amtrak for payment was not actionable as a claim presented to the government for purposes of the FCA, unless Amtrak also presented that claim to the government. Garland dissented and wrote, “[a]lthough Amtrak receives billion of dollars in federal funds that it uses to pay contractor invoices, because it does not (and is not required to) re-present those invoices to the federal government, the court’s ruling immunizes those who defraud even that government-funded corporation from False Claims Act liability.” Garland relied heavily on legislative intent, noting that when Congress enacted the FCA it “wrote expansively” and “to reach all types of fraud, without qualification, that might result in financial loss to the Government.”

In both of these opinions, Garland seems to take an expansive view of the FCA. Whether or how those views will shape DOJ policy with respect to FCA enforcement actions is unknown, but it is clear that Garland’s views of the FCA are in stark contrast to his predecessor’s. Specifically, Attorney General Barr stated the qui tam provision of the FCA was an “abomination.” He viewed it as merely a bounty hunter statute that violated the appointments clause of the Constitution and as something to attack. 
SEC to Investigate Potential Illegal Conduct in Connection with GameStop and AMC Stock Surge

Over the past few weeks, the Internet has been awash with news of a wild rise in the stock prices of publicly traded companies, most notably GameStop and AMC Theaters. Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the market for securities, one might suspect that this increase was a product of the ongoing volatility of the market. However, the rise of these two stocks is allegedly the result of a coordinated effort by traders in a Reddit subgroup called “WallStreetBets.” The rapid rise has been described as a battle between small investors and Wall Street, but the true nature of the events may have its origins in a simple effort to make a little profit from the stock of a beloved retailer that many believed to be undervalued.

GameStop is a video game retailer that buys and sells used video games, consoles, and other consumer electronics. It holds a special place in the hearts of many millennials and members of Generation Z who frequented the stores during their childhood. Despite the nostalgia, GameStop’s profitability had seen a decline over a number of years. Many consumers had begun to purchase digital versions of video games downloaded directly onto their consoles, and sales of physical products were met with competition from Amazon, which offered free shipping on products. Compounding the issues was the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many of the retailer’s storefronts closed during lockdown efforts. This created a perception that GameStop was doomed to bankruptcy.

Because of the perceived imminent demise of GameStop, it became one of the most shorted stocks on the market. Hedge funds and other institutional investors believed that the stock was a great opportunity to profit from its impending closure. Enter WallStreetBets. Members of the Reddit group believed that Wall Street had bet too heavily against GameStop and was taking on too much risk in shorting the stock. Recent sales of next generation gaming consoles and a partnership with Microsoft gave investors a reason to be optimistic about the upside of the company. Investors then began buying the stock, which sent the price of GameStop up. That is the point at which events escalated.

It is unclear at this point when a strategy arose or who was behind it, but members of WallStreetBets allegedly began to see GameStop, AMC, and other stocks as an opportunity to punish Wall Street for betting on the failure of the companies. Members of the group began to buy up GameStop and AMC stock in large quantities. This sent the stock prices up. Hedge funds and institutional investors then were forced to buy up stock in order to cover their losses from their short positions. Those purchases sent the prices up even further, spurring others with short positions to buy stock to cover their positions. The quick rise attracted the attention of news outlets and social media. The rise in the stock prices enticed individual investors with no ties to WallStreetBets to invest in the stocks, sending the prices even higher. The trading volume and wild volatility led exchanges and trading platform Robinhood to halt trading of the stocks. Many made millions off the stock, and institutional investors are reported to have lost billions from their short positions in the stocks.

The massive profits and losses bring with them scrutiny from regulators, most notably, the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"). In a recent statement, the SEC announced that it would “act to protect retail investors when the facts demonstrate abusive or manipulative trading activity that is prohibited by the federal securities laws.” The SEC can regulate market manipulation under both §§ 9(a) and 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act. Given the conduct involved, SEC is most likely to pursue any wrongdoing under § 9(a). Under § 9(a)(2) – codified as 15 U.S.C. § 78i – it is unlawful to engage in transactions designed to create actual or apparent trading of a security “for the purpose of inducing the purchase or sale of such security by others.” Based on the language of the statute, the SEC may have difficulty bringing enforcement actions against members of the WallStreetBets group who traded in the stocks of GameStop and AMC initially and against individual investors who bought and sold the stock. Those individuals would have a strong argument that their trades were based on publicly available information that led them to seek a profit from buying and selling the stock.  

The individuals most likely to face enforcement actions from the SEC are members of the WallStreetBets group that allegedly targeted short sellers in an effort to force them to sell to cover their losses. SEC is likely to review postings in the WallStreetBets group and communications involving any individuals that created posts indicating their desire to induce institutional investors to sell their stock at a loss. Given the billions of dollars lost on the stock, this investigation is likely to receive much press coverage, and the Biden administration may see this as an opportunity to flex its muscle with an SEC that brought comparatively few enforcement actions under President Trump. Because the information posted to Reddit is freely accessible, SEC is likely to move quickly in bringing enforcement actions against individuals that allegedly manipulated the price of stocks. Time will tell how many individuals face scrutiny for their actions and how many are able to avoid enforcement actions because they were only trying to make a quick buck.
Business Interruption Insurance Claims Not Necessarily Dead on Arrival: Some Insureds Find Success

In the face of government mandated closures or significantly reduced business due to COVID-19, business have and continue to be under significant financial pressure. Many have turned to their insurers for relief, invoking business interruption insurance policies. Although insurers successfully defeated many of those claims in court and used early victories as a deterrent against policyholders who later asserted claims, a recent court case provides a glimmer of hope for insureds seeking to recover under their policies.

On January 19, 2021, a judge in the Northern District of Ohio ruled in favor of a restaurant system that was seeking coverage under the business interruption provision of its insurance policy. Henderson Road Restaurant Systems, Inc. operates a number of steak and seafood restaurants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, and Florida. The group, like so many other businesses, suffered staggering financial losses due to COVID-19. Most of its restaurants were forced to close due to state governmental orders restricting indoor dining at restaurants. Prior to the pandemic, the restaurants operated almost exclusively on in-person dining. Even though the restaurants were permitted to provide take-out services, the restaurants found little success doing so. Eventually the group sought to invoke the business interruption provision of its commercial insurance policy with Zurich. 

Zurich argued that the restaurants’ economic losses were not covered by the policy because they were not caused by “physical loss or damage to property.” Zurich also argued that, even if there had been direct physical loss, the policy’s microorganism exclusion would exclude coverage. Although the insurer cited to a litany of other court decisions rejecting similar claims for business interruption coverage, the Court parsed the specific language of the restaurants’ policy and found that the restaurant’s loss of income was a covered loss and the microorganism exclusion did not apply because the loss was not caused by COVID-19 itself but rather was caused by the government mandated closures in response to COVID-19.

The decision demonstrates that whether a policyholder can successfully enforce insurance coverage is influenced by the specific policy language at issue and the facts giving rise to a “loss.” The analysis likely will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but this case may be a small harbinger of hope to businesses that are scrambling to find any way to stay afloat during these difficult times. 
Two CARES Act PPP Fraud Schemes Result in Seven Indictments and Five Guilty Pleas

In separate press releases on January 28, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced charges against seven individuals involved in two schemes to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 relief funds provided by the CARES Act. Under the CARES Act, emergency financial assistance was provided to businesses and individuals under various programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans and Provider Relief Funds. The PPP allows some businesses to receive loans the government may forgive if specific requirements are met. The press releases involved PPP loan schemes totaling approximately $5 million.

Scheme to Obtain $3 million in PPP Loans

The DOJ charged Rodericque Thompson, Micah K. Baisden, Travis C. Crosby, Keith A. Maloney Jr., Tabronx W. Smith, and Thomas D. Wilson with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to a financial institution. The six defendants obtained approximately $1.5 million in PPP loans, but were part of a larger scheme that altogether fraudulently obtained $3 million.

According to the press release, Mr. Thompson recruited the five co-conspirators to apply for PPP loans on behalf of their five respective business. Each business allegedly provided false statements on loan applications, with which Mr. Thompson allegedly assisted in preparing in exchange for a percentage of the PPP loans. Aside from the indictment of Mr. Thompson and his five co-conspirators, five other individuals pled guilty in connection with the same scheme. 

Scheme to Obtain Nearly $2 million PPP Loans

The DOJ charged Jorge Abramovs with five counts of bank fraud, five counts of money laundering, and one count of making false statements to a bank. The DOJ alleges that Mr. Abramovs obtained PPP loans from seven lenders valuing nearly $2 million. Mr. Abramovs allegedly submitted multiple PPP loan applications containing false information in the name of three businesses. The indictment alleges that Mr. Abramovs used the PPP funds for extravagant purchases, such as high-end vehicles, real estate, and paying his home mortgage. 

The scheme was investigated by the FBI and the Small-Business Administration and prosecuted by the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. According to the press release, “in the nine months since the PPP began, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases … seized more than $60 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds.”

As these cases show, the federal government is cracking down on alleged fraud related to CARES Act funds, and in particular the receipt and use PPP loans. Stringent documentation of PPP loan applications and the use of PPP funds will go a long way in defending against any such government interest in your business. 
HIPAA Right of Access Initiative: OCR Announces Two More Settlements

CG Attorneys continue to monitor and provide updates regarding the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’(HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Under the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative, OCR has made a determined effort to investigate claims that covered entities have violated patients’ right to access protected health information, as delineated in 45 C.F.R. § 165.524. As CG attorneys have noted in previous blog posts, OCR’s enforcement efforts and related monetary settlements have been broad and wide reaching, affecting covered entities of all sizes. Since 2019, when the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative was announced, OCR has settled fourteen enforcement actions. On February 10 and 16, 2021, OCR announced its fifteenth and sixteenth Right of Access Initiative settlements.

OCR’s Fifteenth Right of Access Initiative Settlement 

In February 2019, OCR received a complaint alleging that Renown Health did not timely respond to a patient’s request for an electronic copy of her medical records, including billing records, to be sent to a third party. OCR initiated an investigation and Renown Health provided the patient access to the requested records in late December 2019, nearly a year after the initial request for records was made. OCR determined that Renown Health potentially violated the HIPAA Right of Access requirements.  

This case appears to have differed somewhat from the typical trajectory. In many of the HIPAA Right of Access Initiative settlements, OCR initially provides technical assistance and does not initiate a formal investigation until there is a second complaint against the covered entity related to that technical assistance. For Renown Health, however, neither the press release nor corrective action plan indicate whether a second complaint was made before OCR’s investigation and Renown Health’s settlement. Under the settlement agreement, Renown Health agreed to pay $75,000 and undertake a corrective action plan with monitoring for two years. A copy of the agreement is available here

OCR’s Sixteenth Right of Access Initiative Settlement

In June 2019, OCR received a complaint alleging that Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Centers (“SRMC”) did not timely respond to a patient’s request for medical records to be sent to a third party. OCR provided technical assistance and reminded SRMC of the HIPAA Right of Access requirements. As with most right of access enforcement actions, OCR received a second complaint in August 2019 alleging that SRMC had not responded to the patient’s request for records, despite the technical assistance. OCR then initiated a formal investigation and determined that SRMC may have violated the right of access requirements. After OCR initiated its investigation, SRMC finally provided access to the requested records. SRMC agreed to pay $70,000 to settle the potential violation of HIPAA Right of Access requirements. SRMC also agreed to a corrective action plan that includes monitoring for two years. A copy of the agreement is available here. 

Six weeks into 2021, and already there have been three published HIPAA Right of Access Initiative settlements totaling nearly $350,000. These enforcement actions are likely to continue. According to acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese, “[p]atients are entitled to timely access to their medical records. OCR created the Right of Access Initiative to enforce and support this critical right.” Patients’ rights under HIPAA to access protected health information are located at 45 C.F.R. § 165.524 and HHS as provided guidance. CG attorneys’ previous posts about the tentheleventhtwelfththirteenth, and fourteenth settlements, and other HIPAA related matters are available here


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