In March 2019, Rush University Medical Center (“Rush University”) sent out breach notification letters to approximately 45,000 patients. The letter advises patients that a privacy incident occurred that may have involved the patients’ personal information. The privacy incident was caused by an employee of a third-party financial services vendor. The employee released a file that contained patient information to an unauthorized person. According to the breach notification letter, law enforcement and regulatory officials were involved in the investigation of the privacy incident. Rush University sent the breach notification letter in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s privacy and security rules.
A measles outbreak that has affected 71 people in Washington and4 people in Oregon has ignited public health discourse over vaccinations. Vaccination rates in the Pacific Northwest are among the lowest in the nation. Both Washington and Oregon allow personal belief exemptions from immunizations for school-age children. The outbreak, which continues to spread, may lead Oregon and Washington to follow California’s example of eliminating personal belief exemptions. Eliminating personal belief exemptions, however, may not be the panacea that lawmakers seek. The rise in medical exemptions for vaccines in California indicates the need for a comprehensive vaccination framework.
At 12:28pm on January 25, 2019, a thirty-story high tailings dam operated by Brazilian mining giant Vale suffered a catastrophic failure, unleashing an estimated 12 million cubic meters of mining waste on the town of Brumadinho, Brazil. The collapse killed 177 people, and 133 others are missing and presumed dead. Perhaps the most devastating part of this tragedy is the simple fact that it should have never happened.
On February 22, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a final rule to the Federal Register, substantially altering existing guidelines for family planning programs’ reception of federal funds under Title X of the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act). Among other things, the new regulations prohibit qualifying programs from referring patients to abortion providers. Public statements from organizations such as Planned Parenthood suggest lawsuits for injunctive relief are imminent.
On January 29, 2019, TechCrunch released an investigation finding that Facebook had been paying users as young as 13 for unlimited access to their data. Facebook marketed the application, not available through the iOS app store, to users aged 13-to-35 by offering to pay $20 per month plus referral fees for downloading and using a “Facebook Research” app. The app, once downloaded, provided Facebook with unrestricted access to all private data on the users iPhone including messages, photos and videos, and website usage. This was not the first app launched by Facebook to track user’s data, Apple removed a similar app called Onavo from the app store in 2018. This app is a clear violation of the 2011 consent decree Facebook signed with the Federal Trade Commission.
Ever since the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, concerns surrounding data privacy and protection have been growing. Both government agencies and individual users have particularly been concerned on how their data is being collected and used on social media websites such as Facebook. Germany has taken action in response to such concerns and recently took a step against Facebook’s collection of data in a decision that outlawed Facebook’s entire advertisement regime.
In order to operate, non-profit organizations rely heavily on the ability to fundraise. The government leaves the regulation of that “charitable solicitation” to individual states, with most requiring formal registration to engage in such activities. With firms vying for organizations’ business to hire consultants to obtain funds, and ethics and oversight firms highlighting the careful approaches that must be utilized to appropriately raise funds for non-profit operations, charitable organizations may find themselves confused and threatened in the space between needing charitable solicitation to survive and maintaining regulatory compliance to engage in the activity itself. While the threats of penalties and sanctions are large and imposing, it appears that few organizations ever face their true weight. Charitable organizations must, of course, comply with each state of registration, but is the fear instilled equal to the reality of the consequences of non-compliance?
The current Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and former Loyola University Chicago School of Law professor Eric D. Hargan was sworn into his position as the Deputy Secretary on October 6, 2017. Since then, he has been working on assisting providers to help them better understand the intricacies of the Stark law by gathering provider concerns about present governing efforts. All of this work is being done in an effort to shift the healthcare system away from fee-for-service care and towards value-based care in what Hargan is calling the “Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care.” Hargan stated that “removing unnecessary government obstacles to care coordination is a key priority for this Administration.”
On January 15, 2019, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urging the agency to update its federal regulations governing the use of certain cannabis-derived ingredients in food, beverages and dietary supplements. As writers of the Hemp Farming Act, Wyden and Merkley, initiated the removal of the hemp plant and derivatives of Cannabis sativa from the list of controlled substances under the Controlled Substance Act. The Hemp Farming Act passed as a provision in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and thus, legalized the production and sale of industrial hemp and hemp-derived compounds, including cannabidiol (CBD).
Roe v. Wade has been a controversial Supreme Court decision ever since it was decided in 1973. Critics have tried to overturn it multiple times over the years. Some states have attempted to circumvent the ruling and implement their own abortion laws, while other states have implemented laws to solidify it in the event the decision is overturned. On the 46th anniversary of the opinion, New York passed a new abortion law called the Reproductive Health Act, which has caused an uproar across the country. In addition, this month the Supreme Court ruled to stay on a Louisiana Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (“TRAP”) law. The question becomes how will states comply with the ruling of Roe v. Wade when its future seems unknown.