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HIPAA guidance on disclosures relating to reproductive healthcare: Risk mitigation and strategies


Following the US Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization , No. 19-1392 (U.S. June 24, 2022), the Office for Civil Rights of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS-OCR) issued guidance on June 29, 2022 regarding disclosures of protected health information (PHI) relating to reproductive healthcare subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This guidance reminds covered entities and their business associates that, absent an individual’s authorization, they may use and disclose PHI only as expressly permitted or required by HIPAA and that HIPAA’s exceptions for disclosures of PHI without an individual’s authorization are narrowly tailored.

HHS-OCR specifically provided guidance on the following three HIPAA exceptions:

> Disclosures required by law. Under this exception, covered entities may, but are not required to, disclose PHI if the disclosure is “required by law.” Because “required by law” is narrowly defined by HIPAA, covered entities must ensure that they only disclose PHI under this exception if the law (including, for example, a court order) compels a covered entity to do so. Any request for a disclosure under this exception must be carefully reviewed prior to disclosure and limited to the requirements of […]

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