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The Wagner Law Group Description 

The Wagner Law Group, A Professional Corporation, is a nationally recognized ERISA & employee benefits, estate planning, employment, labor & human resources practice. 


Established in 1996, The Wagner Law Group has 23 attorneys engaged exclusively in employee benefits, estate planning and employment law. Seven of our attorneys are AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell as having very high to preeminent legal abilities and ethical standards. The firm is among the largest ERISA boutiques in the country. Our practice is national in scope, with clients in more than 40 states and several foreign countries.



Contact Info

The Wagner Law Group


  Integrity | Excellence


Massachusetts Office 

Tel: (617) 357-5200 

Fax: (617) 357-5250 

99 Summer Street 

13th Floor

Boston, MA 02110

Florida Office 

Tel: (561) 293-3590
Fax: (561) 293-3591
7108 Fairway Drive
Suite 125
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418


San Francisco Office

Tel: (415) 625-0002

Fax: (415) 358-8300

315 Montgomery Street

Suite 904

San Francisco, CA 94104





October 24, 2013 

 State and Federal Law Alert


HHS to Start Permanent HIPAA Audit Program in 2014 


HHS's Office of Civil Rights ("OCR") recently announced that it will launch a permanent Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") audit program beginning October 1, 2014. In 2012, OCR conducted 115 HIPAA audits as part of a pilot program. Audits initiated under OCR's permanent program will be narrower in scope than the 2012 pilot program audits, thereby allowing OCR to target a greater number of organizations. 


OCR officials have indicated that the permanent audit program will assess the level of HIPAA compliance for both covered entities and business associates. Previous OCR audits focused only on covered entities' compliance with HIPAA. However, under the HIPAA Omnibus Rule, business associates are now directly liable for HIPAA compliance. OCR's enforcement of the HIPAA Omnibus Rule began September 23, 2013.


The focal points of OCR's permanent audit program will likely change each year as new issues come to the forefront. For example, audits conducted during OCR's 2012 pilot program revealed that two-thirds of the audited entities failed to perform thorough and timely risk assessments. Accordingly, risk assessments will be a primary focus under OCR's permanent audit program for the foreseeable future.


In addition to conducting random HIPAA audits, OCR often reviews entities' HIPAA compliance as part of its data breach investigations. OCR estimates that a recently released electronic complaint portal will increase the number of breach complaints it receives annually from approximately 10,000 to 18,000.


OCR has stated that it intends to assess more penalties for HIPAA violations. In part, this may be because OCR now has authorization to use collected penalty amounts to fund its enforcement actions across fiscal years, thereby enabling it to maximize funding for audits and breach analysis activities. For the current fiscal year, OCR has a $38 million budget for audits, in addition to $4 million in civil penalties it has collected. Nevertheless, OCR plans to ask for a higher budget for the next fiscal year.


In light of the above developments, covered entities must take steps to prevent security breaches of protected health information, ensure compliance with HIPAA and prepare in advance for OCR's upcoming HIPAA audits. Covered entities must also be sure to maintain risk assessment documentation, written HIPAA compliance policies and documentary evidence of their HIPAA compliance efforts.


OCR's HIPAA audit protocol can be accessed at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/enforcement/audit/protocol.html



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This Newsletter is provided for information purposes by The Wagner Law Group to clients and others who may be interested in the subject matter, and may not be relied upon as specific legal advice.  This material is not to be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. Under the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this material may be considered advertising.