“Willful neglect” is a term that's often tossed around when referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors and other covered entities should familiarize themselves with this term and its respective definition. Because if you're accused of willful neglect, you could be faced with hefty penalties ranging up to the $250,000.
So, what exactly is willful neglect? The term is used to describe the act of ignoring HIPAA laws. HIPAA was created with the purpose of ensuring patient privacy, providing healthcare patients with certain rights that must be honored by covered entities. If a covered entity ignores one or more of these rights, they cold be found in violation of HIPAA's willful neglect policy, at which point they would most likely face a fine.
There are actually two different types of willful neglect acknowledged by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The first type occurs when a covered entity knowingly (or willingly) ignores HIPAA laws but takes steps to correct their mistake within the time frame dictated by the HHS. The maximum fine for incident for this type of willful neglect is $10,000, with a total annual maximum penalty of $1.5 million, or $50,000 per “violation” with the same $1.5 million annual maximum.
The second type of willful neglect occurs when a covered entity ignores HIPAA laws without correcting their mistakes. The fines for this are a bit higher, at $50,000 per violation/incident.
The key thing to remember with willful neglect is that the covered entity must knowingly and willingly ignore a HIPAA law. Mistakes are bound to happen in the healthcare field. As long as the mistakes aren't intentional, however, the entity is usually hook the hook from fines and penalties. However, if the HHS deems the covered entity knowingly violated a HIPAA, they could be fined in the amounts listed above.
As a covered entity, it's in your best interest to know and follow HIPAA's laws. Granted, it takes time, training and resources to learn the ins and outs of HIPAA, but it's a necessary process to ensure a compliant workplace. If you need help understanding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, check out some of our previous blog posts here at https://www.allpointcompliance.com/Blog. We've covered multiple angles on HIPAA, including the Privacy and Security Rule.