HHS' Office for Civil Rights says its requested 13.7% budget increase for fiscal 2012—to $46.7 million compared with $41.1 million for 2011—will allow it to more effectively investigate breaches of sensitive health information, reduce healthcare disparities and address discrimination based on disability.
HHS' Office for Civil Rights wants more money to investigate data breaches
"OCR's requested budget will support our ability to protect the public's right to equal access and opportunity to participate in and receive services from all (HHS) programs without facing unlawful discrimination and to protect the privacy and security of individuals with respect to their personal health information," according to its budget request letter.
The health IT provisions of the stimulus law gave the Office for Civil Rights the task of validating, posting and investigating data breaches. But because of the extensive workload, there are not enough available resources to investigate breaches affecting fewer than 500 people, according to the Office for Civil Rights' letter.
The Office for Civil Rights noted that as of Sept. 30, 2010, it had received 9,300 health-information breach reports—191 affecting more than 500 individuals and 9,109 affecting fewer than 500 people. In addition, the office received nearly 9,400 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy and security rule complaints in fiscal 2010.
"Additional (full-time employees) are critical if OCR is to successfully investigate the estimated 20,000 combined breach reports and HIPAA complaints that are anticipated to be received annually," according to the office.
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