May 6, 2018
Criminal fines for HIPAA violations are comparatively rare, even though the Division of Justice does follow criminal indictments for HIPAA breaches when there has been a grave breach of patient secrecy, such as an impermissible revelation of PHI for monetary gain or malevolent intentions.
One such case has led to two criminal verdicts – a breach of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and hindering an illegal healthcare inquiry.
The case links to the DOJ inquiry of the pharmaceutical company Warner Chilcott over healthcare scam. In 2015, Warner Chilcott pleaded guilty to paying bribes to doctors for recommending its medicines and for manipulating earlier authorizations to induce health insurance companies to pay for medicines. The case was resolved with the DOJ for $125 million.
Last week, a Massachusetts gynecologist, Rita Luthra, M.D., 67, of Longmeadow, was sentenced for breaching HIPAA by offering a Warner Chilcott sales rep with access to the PHI of patients for a duration of 10 months between January 2011 and November 2011.
The access to PHI let patients with specific health conditions to be targeted by the company and helped the receipt of earlier approvals for Warner Chilcott pharmaceutical products. When questioned by state agents concerning her association with Warner Chilcott, Luthra provided wrong information and hindered the inquiry.
Luthra had been earlier indicted for getting bribes from Warner Chilcott in the shape of fees for speaker training and speaking at educational occasions that didn’t take place. Luthra had accepted payments of roughly $23,500. The DOJ ultimately dropped the charges, even though the case against the doctor continued to be followed, resulting in the two sentences.
Luthra faces jail time and a considerable fine. The maximum fine for the HIPAA breach is a jail sentence of no more than 1 year, one year of controlled release, and a maximum penalty of $50,000. The maximum fine for hindering a criminal health inquiry is no more than 5 years in prison, three years of controlled release, and a penalty of up to $250,000.