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Office of Civil Rights extends comment period on changes to HIPAA privacy rule

OCR says it anticipates a high degree of public interest because the HIPAA Privacy Rule affects nearly anyone. 

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

The Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced a 45-day extension of the public comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to modify the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule.

The 45-day extension moves the current deadline for the public to submit comments from March 22 to May 6. OCR is encouraging comments from all stakeholders and the public no later than May 6.


Changes proposed to the HIPAA Privacy Rule aim to remove regulations that impede communication and data exchange between providers and health plans. The rule would also expand individuals' rights to access their own digital health information.

The goal, HHS said when it released the rule in December 2020, is to further value-based reimbursement and improve care coordination by enabling greater patient and family access to health data.

The changes would also offer more flexibilities for disclosures in situations such as opioid overdoses and the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In addition, the hope is that a streamlined new rule would reduce administrative burdens on HIPAA-covered entities while continuing to protect patient privacy.

The proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule include:

  • strengthening individuals' rights to access their own health information, including electronic information. 
  • improving information-sharing for care coordination and case management for individuals.
  • facilitating greater family and caregiver involvement in the care of individuals experiencing emergencies or health crises. 
  • enhancing flexibilities for disclosures in emergency or threatening circumstances, such as the opioid and COVID-19 public health emergencies.
  • reducing administrative burdens on HIPAA-covered healthcare providers and health plans while continuing to protect individuals' health information privacy interests.


OCR first released the rule to the public on December 10, 2020, and it was published in the Federal Register on January 21.  


"OCR anticipates a high degree of public interest in providing input on the proposals because the HIPAA Privacy Rule affects nearly anyone who interacts with the healthcare system," said Acting OCR Director Robinsue Frohboese.  

"The 45-day extension of the comment period to May 6, 2021, will give the public a full opportunity to consider the proposals and submit comments to inform future policy." 

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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