On April 12, 2023, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking detailing its proposal to modify the HIPAA Privacy Rule (Proposed Rule). The Proposed Rule comes as a part of the Biden administration’s response to the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The Proposed Rule would provide special protections for protected health information (PHI) related to reproductive healthcare. Following the Dobbs decision, many healthcare providers expressed concerns that PHI related to reproductive healthcare may be sought by state and local governments for use in criminal, civil or administrative investigations or proceedings. OCR noted that such compelled uses and disclosures of PHI could have a chilling effect on lawfully obtained healthcare and erode trust in confidential communications between a patient and provider. Additionally, providers could elect to leave out critical details from a patient’s medical record if they fear the information could later be used by a state or local government actor against the patient.
Stakeholders may submit comments on the proposed rule on or before June 16, 2023.