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Supreme Court Rules Against North Carolina Dental Board.
The American Dental Association (2/26) reports, “In a 6 to 3 decision issued Feb. 25, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that a dental board that includes ‘market participants,’ i.e., dentists, who control its decisions must be subject to ‘active supervision’ by the state if the boards and their individual members are to enjoy immunity from federal antitrust laws under the State Action Doctrine.” In response, the American Dental Association says it “believes the decision constitutes a radical departure from the court’s established law and throws into question the regulatory, licensing, and disciplinary authority of thousands of professional boards across the country.”
The AP (2/26, Sherman) reports, “in dissent, Justice Samuel Alito warned that the decision ‘is likely to have far-reaching effects on the states’ regulation of professions’ because many boards are made up of practitioners.”
The Los Angeles Times (2/26, Savage) reports, “Legal experts said the ruling stepped away from earlier decisions that had made state officials immune from federal antitrust charges.” The Los Angeles Times adds that, in his dissent, Justice Alito wrote that “the court had ‘veered off course’” and that “‘Today’s decision will spawn confusion’ when judges try to decide which state boards ‘merit a good-government seal of approval.’”
Meanwhile, the New York Times (2/26, Liptak, Subscription Publication) reports, “A supporting brief from the American Medical Association and several other medical groups had argued that a ruling against the dental board would discourage doctors from serving on professional boards and disrupt a ‘150-year tradition.’”
Similarly, Modern Healthcare (2/25, Schencker, Subscription Publication) reports that prior to the ruling both the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association had filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiner’s position that “it should be immune from antitrust laws because it is a state agency.”
Medscape (2/26) also mentions the AMA and ADA’s amicus curiae briefs, reporting that the “AMA and its allies” said, “If state licensing decisions are subject to invalidation by federal agencies with no particular expertise in the healing arts, then those federal agencies will become the final arbiters of matters of public safety, tasks that they are ill-equipped to perform.”
Bloomberg News (2/25) and Reuters (2/26, Hurley) also report the story.
Dentists have until March 1 to report a HIPAA-compliance issue to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS).
Specifically, HIPAA-covered practices must report any breach of its electronic patient information that may have affected fewer than 500 people by that date. Breaches that may have affected more than 500 people have more strict timelines as practices only get a 60-day window to report the incident.
According to the HHS, "A covered entity’s breach notification obligations differ based on whether the breach affects 500 or more individuals or fewer than 500 individuals. If the number of individuals affected by a breach is uncertain at the time of submission, the covered entity should provide an estimate, and, if it discovers additional information, submit updates in the manner specified below. If only one option is available in a particular submission category, the covered entity should pick the best option, and may provide additional details in the free text portion of the submission."
The HHS website allows for dentists to report an incident electronically and has instructions for submitting.
The breach notification rule was approved in 2009 as part of a larger set of HIPAA amendments known as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). Congress passed HIPAA in 1996 to simplify, and thereby reduce the cost of, the administration of health care. HIPAA does this by encouraging the use of electronic transactions between health care providers and payers, thereby reducing paperwork. Congress deemed that if the electronic transmission of patient health information was to be encouraged by the legislation, there needed to be means to protect the confidentiality of that information.
Secure electronic transmission of protected health information is one of the many requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule. Dental practices should review the rule requirements to ensure compliance. A major component of compliance is a documented risk analysis. HIPAA Security Rule: A Summary can be found on cda.org. HHS has on its site a Guidance on Risk Analysis.
CDA has a Data Breach Notification Checklist on cda.org/practicesupport. The ADA Practical Guide to HIPAA Compliance includes information about the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.