On June 3, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, Employee Benefits Security Administration and Department of the Treasury published in the Federal Register final guidance regarding nondiscriminatory wellness programs under employer-sponsored group health plans. This final guidance was issued in the form of much-anticipated joint final regulations on such wellness programs (the “Final Regulations”). It is important to note that the Final Regulations will apply to wellness programs offered under all group health plans [regardless of whether the plan is “grandfathered” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Affordable Care Act”)]. Moreover, these Final Regulations will be effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014.
HIPAA-covered entities and many of their vendors—among them are HIO and EHR consultants, data analytic firms, data transmission facilitators, software vendors and device vendors—rely on health information technology (HIT) to accomplish their purposes. Large data companies, small entrepreneurs and investors are participating in the growth of HIT.
Because HIPAA includes employer-sponsored group health plans under the definition of insurers, employers that sponsor plans are also affected by the GINA amendments to the HIPAA Privacy Rule (“the GINA amendments”). In addition, the GINA amendments will have applicability beyond the insurance industry because they draw distinctions between permissible and impermissible uses of “genetic information” in connection with the diagnosis of a medical condition. Click here to read more about how the new HIPAA rules regarding genetic information affect employers, group health plans, health insurers and healthcare providers.
Employers that sponsor group health plans for their employees should pay careful attention to the newly announced final omnibus rule amending HIPAA in accordance with the HITECH Act of 2009. This final rule under the HITECH Act, issued on January 17, 2013, impacts group health plans in two significant ways. Group health plan sponsors should act now to make changes to existing plan documents, including HIPAA procedures and business associate agreements, in response to the Final Rule.
Click here for an overview of how HIPAA generally applies in the context of employer-sponsored group health plans and these significant changes impacting group health plans.