HIPAA and the IRS. There isn’t a whole lot of guidance out there about what to do when the IRS knocks on your organization’s door and asks for protected health information. Should the agency be treated as a cop or robber?
The most risk-averse approach for a HIPAA-covered entity or business associate to take is to treat the IRS as a potential thief and draw the deadbolt when it comes to data requests involving PHI. Such a tack would, among other things, comply fully with HIPAA’s minimum necessary requirement and, frankly, reinforce the Everyman attitude toward the agency. Moreover, PHI produced in response to an information document request (IRD) is unlikely to be treated under 45 CFR 164.512 as a disclosure required by law, a disclosure for an administrative proceeding, or a disclosure for a law enforcement purpose, because the IRS appears to lack the authority to compel compliance with an IRD. However, we should be careful that we don’t always and automatically view the IRS with HIPAA suspicion – in some circumstances the IRS does perform a legitimate healthcare oversight function for which it may receive PHI without individual authorization, consistent with HIPAA’s treatment/ payment/ operations exception.
Continue Reading Cops or Robbers: PHI, the IRS and IRDs