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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tennessee insurer to pay $1.5 million for breach-related violations

BlueCross BlueShield agrees to pay HHS for HIPAA violations tied to 2009 breach that exposed data on 1 million members

Originally published March 13, 2012

A 2009 data breach that has already cost BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee nearly $17 million got a little more expensive Tuesday.

The insurer today agreed to pay $1.5 million to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to settle Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations related to the breach.

Under the settlement, BlueCross BlueShield has also agreed to review and revise its privacy and security policies and to regularly train employees on their responsibilities under the HIPAA of 1996.

The settlement is the first resulting from enforcement action taken by the HHS under Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) breach notification requirements.

The notification rules require all HIPAA-covered entities to notify affected individuals of any breach involving their health information. It also requires them to notify the HHS and the media in cases where the breach affects more than 500 people.

Leon Rodriguez, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) said the settlement underscores the department's intent to vigorously enforce HIPAA's security and privacy rules.

"This settlement sends an important message that OCR expects health plans and health care providers to have in place a carefully designed, delivered, and monitored HIPAA compliance program," Rodriguez said in a statement.