Rodriguez to bid HIPAA post farewell

January 11, 2014 in Medical Technology

Leon Rodriguez will be vacating his post as HHS Office for Civil Rights director to assume a new position as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director at Homeland Security, leaving a vacancy open for the job of HIPAA’s chief enforcer.

Rodriguez, who must face a Senate confirmation before he could take over the job as director, would replace Alejandro N. Mayorkas, who will be moving to fill the deputy secretary position at DHS.

Rodriguez has been serving as the director of the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services since September 2011. In this position, he has been the lead enforcer for patient privacy rights as found in the HIPAA law.

[See also: Ready or not: HIPAA gets tougher today.]

Rodriguez said at an event last fall that for 10 years of his life, he represented covered entities, which really helped him take a balanced approach to enforcement.

Last Sept. 23, on the same day that the HIPAA Final Rule on Privacy Security kicked in, Rodriguez addressed attendees of the HIMSS Media and Healthcare IT News Privacy and Security Forum.

“Today is a critical day for the Omnibus,” Rodriguez said. He explained that the agency is working to strike a balance between effective enforcement and clearly communicating what all the rules are surrounding patient privacy and security.

“On the one hand you do have to have assertive enforcement; you have to have credible enforcement, that really does play a critical role in obtaining compliance,” he said. “But at the same time you have to set rules of the road that are understandable and consistent, and you really need to make sure people know what the rules of the road are.”

[See also: New HIPAA rule could change BAA talks.]

Rodriguez talked of the increased enforcement to come, the importance of properly safeguarding patient privacy and the what-not-to-dos, or the breach blunders that have resulted in hefty monetary penalties for some groups who failed to take patient privacy and security seriously — and offered some insights about what drives OCR’s enforcement priorities.

The President’s intent to nominate Rodriguez is the first step and he still has to make it through a Senate confirmation.

If confirmed, Rodriguez will be stepping into one of the most politically charged arenas in the U.S. government: immigration.

This story first appeared in Government Health IT here.

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