HHS Announces Public Comment Deadline Extension for Proposed HIPAA Changes

On Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a 45-day extension of the public comment period for proposed changes to the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The deadline for public comment, which originally was March 22, now will be May 6.

OCR propagated the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking first on Dec. 10, 2020, for the proposed changes to the Privacy Rule that the HHS said would “support individuals’ engagement in their care, remove barriers to coordinated care, and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry.”

“OCR anticipates a high degree of public interest in providing input on the proposals because the HIPAA Privacy Rule affects nearly anyone who interacts with the health care system,” acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese said. “The 45-day extension of the comment period to May 6, 2021, will give the public a full opportunity to consider the proposals and submit comments to inform future policy.”

The proposed rule’s major provisions, which seek to make personal health information (PHI) disclosures easier for patients and health care providers, include “(s)trengthening individuals’ rights to inspect their PHI in person, which includes allowing individuals to take notes or use other personal resources to view and capture images of their PHI” and “reducing the identity verification burden on individuals exercising their access rights.” The rulemaking also proposed changes to information sharing among a patient’s care team and attempts to facilitate “greater family and caregiver involvement” when an individual is facing a health crisis.

These proposed changes align with the goal of two executive orders by former President Donald Trump in 2017, “Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs” and “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” both seeking to “lower regulatory burdens on the American people.” Led by former HHS Secretary Alex Azar, the proposal was initiated as part of HHS’s Regulatory Sprint to Coordinate Care agenda that sought to apply the lowered-regulations framework to health care.