Thursday, July 29, 2010

HHS Strengthens Health Information Privacy and Security through New Rules

“To improve the health of individuals and communities, health information must be available to those making critical decisions, including individuals and their caregivers. While health information technology will help America move its health care system forward, the privacy and security of personal health data is at the core of all our work.”

--U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

On July 8, Secretary Sebelius announced important new rules to strengthen the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), improve the privacy of health information and help all Americans understand their rights and the resources available to safeguard their personal health data.

In short, the proposed rule would strengthen and expand enforcement by:
  • Expanding individuals’ rights to access their information and to restrict certain types of disclosures of protected health information to health plans;
  • Requiring business associates of HIPAA-covered entities to be under most of the same rules as the covered entities;
  • Setting new limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information for marketing and fundraising; and
  • Prohibiting the sale of protected health information without patient authorization.
“The benefits of health IT can only be fully realized if patients and providers are confident that electronic health information is kept private and secure at all times,” said Georgina Verdugo, Office for Civil Rights director at HHS. “This proposed rule strengthens the privacy and security of health information, and is an integral piece of the administration’s efforts to broaden the use of health information technology in health care today.”

In addition, HHS also launched a privacy website to help visitors easily access information about existing HHS privacy efforts and the policies supporting them. The site emphasizes the deep commitment to privacy in the collection, use and exchange of personally identifiable information. This new resource provides Americans with confidence that their personal information is secure and underscores HHS’ goal of greater openness and transparency in government.

For more information about the new rule, click HERE.

For other HHS Recovery Act programs, click HERE.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dr. Berwick: New Admin of CMS

At Merrill Corp., we like change. We like it because we see it as an opportunity to grow, to expand and to better provide our services for our clients in newer and more efficient ways because as the winds of change blow, we embrace the new direction of travel.

The latest winds have brought Dr. Donald Berwick to serve as the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) through a recess appointment. A “recess appointment” means that the president is putting Berwick in place while Congress is not in session, therefore bypassing the Senate confirmation process (an act that is both legal and surrounded in precedent).

While the recess appointment has generated much debate, the current administration feels there is no time for delays in Dr. Berwick’s appointment, especially with health reform in full on-boarding mode. Dr. Berwick’s appointment is supported by AARP, three prior directors of the CMS, and American Association of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association, and the American Hospital Association.

The hiring of Dr. Berwick shows the importance the administration is placing on health reform. “With the agency facing new responsibilities to protect seniors’ care under the Affordable Care Act, there’s no time to waste with Washington game-playing,” stated a White House Spokesperson.

While the administration is placing great importance on health reform, we are making sure to embrace the change and use it to better provide for our clients. As organizations look for ways to strengthen and improve communications to their membership, they will turn to vendors who remain informed and stand out as progressive thought leaders. We welcome Dr. Berwick and are excited to see what changes come about from his new position.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Will Healthcare Reform Lead to Improved Marketing Communications?

As expected, the Healthcare Reform package has triggered the tightening of CMS regulations and disclaimer notations in the 2011 Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) and Evidence of Coverage (EOC) documents for Medicare Part C and Part D plan sponsors. Plans must adhere to these changes and not modify these standardized documents except as noted in the instructions and allowed by CMS.

These changes to the ANOC/EOC are just the tip of the iceberg, as mandated communications are predicted to become more prevalent and standardized with the passing of Healthcare Reform. Plans will need to evaluate how they’re positioned to manage these required communications. Does your data to produce the communications come from disparate sources? Do you have adequate staffing to handle the increased workload? Does your organization have access to the approved templates? What happens if your membership dramatically increases?

With regulatory bodies vowing to closely monitor the accuracy of these communications, Merrill Corporation sees this as an opportunity for organizations to reconsider their marketing communications strategies. Identifying a partner who can help streamline the execution of these mandated communications, ensuring accuracy, timeliness and adherence is a necessity for success. Merrill is equipped with the latest ANOC/EOC templates, and our unique knowledge of the evolving regulations will provide your organization with 100% compliant communications.