Report: HHS attorney predicts spike in HIPAA fines

Penalties under federal health privacy laws are likely to increase substantially in the coming year, according to a high-ranking attorney in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS Chief Regional Civil Rights Counsel Jerome Meites made the prediction at an American Bar Association conference on Thursday in Chicago.

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His remark raised eyebrows because the previous year already saw record fines by the Obama administration under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Law360, the publication that first reported the comment, said HHS received more than $10 million for alleged HIPAA violations since June 2013.

"Knowing what's in the pipeline, I suspect that that number will be low compared to what's coming up," Meites said, clarifying later that he spoke for himself and not HHS.

Officials at the HHS Office of Civil Rights "think they can affect the industry with high-impact cases," he said.