The federal government established the HIPPA Privacy Rule to protect individuals’ personal health information and medical records from being disclosed without their knowledge or consent. As you well know, HIPPA rules apply to any and all persons who work in the health care industry and/or have access to health records.
The government takes HIPPA violations very seriously. While, in minor cases, it leaves it up to employers to dole out appropriate punishments, it may, depending on the circumstances, step in and issue sanctions of its own. In cases of extreme violations, it may issue criminal charges.
Criminal penalties for HIPPA violations
According to HIPPA Journal, depending on the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the violation, you may face criminal charges for each HIPPA violation you commit. If convicted, you may have to pay hefty fines and serve prison time.
If you willfully violate a HIPPA rule, the minimum fine you may receive is $50,000. The maximum fine the government may levy upon you is $250,000 per violation. You may also have to pay restitution to the victim and/or his or her family.
If you receive criminal charges for a HIPPA violation, there is a strong possibility that you will have to serve jail time. If the violation occurs as the result of mere negligence, the judge may sentence you to one year in jail. If you obtained another person’s health information via false pretenses, you could receive a maximum prison term of five years. You may face up to 10 years in prison if you knowingly violated HIPPA Rules with malicious intent and for personal gain. If you violate HIPPA Rules to steal a patient’s identity, you face a mandatory prison term of two years.
Civil penalties for HIPPA violations
In addition to criminal charges, you may face civil penalties for each HIPPA violation you commit. Those include $100 per initial violation. If you commit several violations, the fine can rise to as high as $25,000 per incident. These penalties only apply if you are well aware of the HIPPA Rules and either willfully violated them or did not take reasonable care to exercise them. If you correct the violation within 30 days of committing it, and if you can prove the violation was not the result of malicious intent or willful neglect, civil penalties will not apply.
HIPPA violations are extremely serious and can ruin your career, reputation and finances. If you face HIPPA violation charges, consult with a knowledgeable lawyer right away.