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HIPAAJocelyn Samuels, who serves as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice, has been named the director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the unit within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) that enforces HIPAA compliance.

As she takes on her new role, she replaces the former HHS OCR director, Leon Rodriquez, who has been confirmed to take on the role of the next Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security.

Samuels’s current and previous work consist of:

  • Acting Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice.
  • Vice President for Education & Employment at the National Women’s Law Center.
  • Senior Policy Attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, wrote an email to HHS staff, “Jocelyn’s wealth of experience and commitment to the mission of OCR will be great assets to her as she takes on this new role. I am looking forward to Jocelyn joining the team here at HHS in the near future.”

While the OCR enforces HIPAA compliance through breach investigations and audits, the OCR also enforces the protection of unjust healthcare treatment or discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Disability
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Religion

And covered entities and business associates should beware: The OCR plans to increase the amount of HIPAA audits this fall! According to an OCR spokesperson, “OCR’s audit plans will focus on both covered entities and business associates. We hope to audit 350 covered entities and 50 BAs in this first go around.”

While covered entities should keep an eye out for notification and data requests in fall 2014, business associates won’t be notified until 2015. “OCR will be conducting desk audits of select HIPAA privacy and security rule provisions, with comprehensive on-site audits conducted as resources allow,” the spokesperson continued.

Looking to prepare for the upcoming HIPAA audits? Give us a call or send us an email. We can help you conduct a comprehensive risk assessment and achieve HIPAA compliance.