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Latest News Releases

HHS News Releases


Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan’s visit to Baltimore

Friday, January 12, 2018 - 17:30

Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric D. Hargan, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health Matthew Lin traveled to Baltimore on Friday to meet with city officials and community leaders to learn firsthand how the Department can better empower those on the front lines of America’s pressing public health challenges.

While in Baltimore, Acting Secretary Hargan and HHS officials were able to tour local facilities and participate in roundtables with leaders from the Baltimore City Health Department; Health Care for the Homeless, a federally qualified community health center; and Bon Secours Hospital. At these three locations, they engaged in dialogue and exchanged ideas with medical experts, local leaders and individuals receiving treatment or recovering from various conditions, including opioid addiction, on a variety of issues such as reducing health disparities, treatment of serious mental illness, and the opioid epidemic.

The visits were a part of an ongoing effort by HHS to reaffirm the Trump administration’s commitment to combating the opioid epidemic and engaging with local communities on efforts to address the nation’s healthcare challenges.

Draft Trusted Exchange Framework Released by HHS

Friday, January 5, 2018 - 09:45

The Department of Health and Human Services today released the draft Trusted Exchange Framework, a significant step towards achieving interoperability, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016. The draft Trusted Exchange Framework, issued by HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), advances Congress’ intent that building and maintaining trust is an important core element in ensuring that health information is available where and when it is needed to manage patient health and care. “The draft Trusted Exchange Framework we issued today reflects the successes and challenges already existing in the exchange of health information and is designed to help guide the nation on its path to interoperability for all,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology. “The principles and direction we released today, combined with the support of providers, existing health information networks, health IT developers, and federal agencies, are designed to help improve patient care, care coordination, and the overall health of the nation.” The Trusted Exchange Framework proposes policies, procedures, and technical standards necessary to advance the single on-ramp to interoperability requested by Congress. It will be facilitated through ONC in collaboration with a single Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE) to be selected through a competitive process. The RCE will use the Trust Exchange Framework policies, procedures, technical standards, principles, and goals to develop a single Common Agreement that Qualified Health Information Networks (Qualified HINs) and their participants will voluntarily agree to adopt. Following a 45-day public comment period and refinements to the draft document, a final draft of the combined Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement will be released. The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) will be published in the Federal Register in 2018. ONC will continue to engage with federal partners, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other stakeholders to establish interoperability that allows health information to be used effectively in care and treatment decisions. “The Department of Veterans Affairs supports ONC’s efforts to create a common “on-ramp” to health information networks that supports widespread interoperability, said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA executive in charge. “We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure that our veterans’ health information flows and is available when and where it is needed to support seamless care.” The proposed Trusted Exchange Framework supports ONC’s goals of achieving nationwide interoperability: Patient Access - Patients must be able to access their health information electronically without any special effort; Population-level Data Exchange - Providers and payer organizations accountable for managing benefits can receive population level health information allowing them to analyze population health trends, outcomes, and costs; identify at-risk populations; and track progress on quality improvement initiatives; and Open and Accessible APIs – The health information technology (health IT) community should have open and accessible application programming interfaces (APIs) to encourage entrepreneurial, user-focused innovation to make health information more accessible and to improve electronic health record (EHR) usability.  The draft Trusted Exchange Framework would not prevent existing or new organizations from creating point-to-point or individual agreements between organizations that have a particular business need to exchange information – while preventing potential information blocking – that may be different from those outlined in the proposal. Today ONC also released a User’s Guide to Understanding the Trusted Exchange Framework and the US Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) Glide Path to identify a roadmap for broadening the data that can be exchanged via the TEFCA. “We know t[...]

Failure to protect the health records of millions of persons costs entity millions of dollars

Thursday, December 28, 2017 - 12:45

Failure to protect the health records of millions of persons costs entity millions of dollars 21st Century Oncology, Inc. (21CO) has agreed to pay $2.3 million in lieu of potential civil money penalties to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and adopt a comprehensive corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules. 21CO is a provider of cancer care services and radiation oncology. With their headquarters located in Fort Myers, Florida, 21CO operates and manages 179 treatment centers, including 143 centers located in 17 states and 36 centers located in seven countries in Latin America.

On two separate occasions in 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) notified 21CO that patient information was illegally obtained by an unauthorized third party and produced 21CO patient files purchased by an FBI informant. As part of its internal investigation, 21CO determined that the attacker may have accessed 21CO’s network SQL database as early as October 3, 2015, through the remote desktop protocol from an exchange server within 21CO’s network. 21CO determined that 2,213,597 individuals were affected by the impermissible access to their names, social security numbers, physicians’ names, diagnoses, treatment, and insurance information. OCR’s subsequent investigation revealed that 21CO failed to conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the electronic protected health information (ePHI); failed to implement security measures sufficient to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level; failed to implement procedures to regularly review records of information system activity, such as audit logs, access reports, and security incident tracking reports; and disclosed protected health information (PHI) to third party vendors without a written business associate agreement.

“People need to trust that their private health information will remain exactly that; private,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “It’s not just my hope that covered entities will learn from this example and proactively find and address their security risks, it’s what the law requires.”

In addition to a $2.3 million monetary settlement, a corrective action plan requires 21CO to complete a risk analysis and risk management plan, revise policies and procedures, educate its workforce on policies and procedures, provide all maintained business associate agreements to OCR, and submit an internal monitoring plan.

On May 25, 2017, 21CO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The settlement with OCR will resolve OCR’s claims against 21CO and the corrective action plan will ensure that the reorganized entity emerges from bankruptcy with a strong HIPAA compliance program in place. The settlement with OCR was approved by the Bankruptcy Court on December 11, 2017.

The resolution agreement and corrective action plan may be found on the OCR website at

To learn more about non-discrimination and health information privacy laws, your civil rights, and privacy rights in health care and human service settings, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit us at

Follow OCR on Twitter at

Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de los Estados Unidos informa sobre misiones de respuesta y reactivación de la salud en Puerto Rico

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 19:30

El Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de los Estados Unidos (HHS, por su sigla en inglés) movilizó personal y ayuda a Puerto Rico antes de que el Huracán María llegara a la isla para cumplir las necesidades inmediatas de atención médica y prepararse para los desafíos a largo plazo que enfrenta este territorio americano.


A  la fecha, HHS se ha encargado de:

  • Desplegar 3,037 empleados a la zona
  • Atender 31,011 pacientes
  • Adjudicar 130 contratos de respuesta
  • Trasladar 349 toneladas de insumos y equipos médicos
  • Distribuir 1.5 millones de material impreso para educación sanitaria

“Como parte de la respuesta de la Administración del Presidente Trump en Puerto Rico, HHS ha estado en primera línea respondiendo desde el primer día”, dijo Eric Hargan, Secretario Interino de HHS. “He visto de primera mano el trabajo sobresaliente de más de 3,000 empleados de HHS que fueron desplegados a Puerto Rico y no podría estar más orgulloso de su trabajo”.

El sistema de atención de salud de Puerto Rico se está recuperando y los servicios de salud se están estabilizando:

  • 100% de los hospitales están abiertos
  • 90% de las salas de emergencia están abiertas   
  • 94% de los centros de diálisis están abiertos          
  • 99.7% de las farmacias están abiertas                                                                          
  • 99% de las clínicas de salud financiadas por el Gobierno federal están abiertas y recibiendo pacientes.

Las agencias de HHS continuarán trabajando en conjunto con los líderes de Puerto Rico en la restauración del sistema de salud. Este trabajo incluye:

  • Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades están asesorando sobre salud pública, vigilancia de enfermedades y prevención de lesiones.
  • La Administración para Niños y Familias está prestando asistencia técnica en servicios a la familia, incluyendo escuelas.
  • La Administración de Salud Mental y Abuso de Sustancias está atendiendo los asuntos relacionados con la salud conductual y el tratamiento a largo plazo.
  • Los Centros de Servicio de Medicare y Medicaid continúan proporcionando flexibilidades administrativas para Medicare y Medicaid
  • La Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de los Estados Unidos continúa trabajando con Puerto Rico y su considerable industria de medicamentos y dispositivos médicos para asegurar que el suministro de estos productos se mantenga.

Información sobre salud y seguridad está disponible en: . Anuncios de servicio público con consejos de salud para después de la tormenta están disponibles en: Se recomienda a los residentes de los Estados Unidos continentales que compartan estos consejos con sus familiares y amigos en Puerto Rico y en las Islas Vírgenes de Estados Unidos.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services update on response & recovery missions in Puerto Rico

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 18:45

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mobilized assistance in Puerto Rico since before Hurricane Maria made landfall to meet immediate health care needs and prepare for the long-term challenges facing the U.S. territory.

To date, HHS has:


  • deployed 3,037 personnel;
  • assisted 31,011 patients;
  • awarded 130 contracts for medical supplies, equipment and related services;
  • moved 349 tons of medical caches; and
  • distributed more than 1.5 million health education fact sheets on 16 health issues.

“As part of the Trump Administration’s response in Puerto Rico, HHS has been on the front lines responding from day one,” said Acting HHS Secretary Eric D. Hargan. “I have seen firsthand the outstanding work of more than 3,000 HHS personnel who were deployed to Puerto Rico and couldn’t be more proud of their work.”

The health care system in Puerto Rico is recovering, and health care services are stabilizing. In Puerto Rico:

  • 100 percent of hospitals are open;
  • 90 percent of outpatient emergency rooms are open;
  • 94 percent of dialysis centers are open;
  • 99.7 percent of pharmacies are open; and
  • 99 percent of HRSA-funded health center sites are seeing patients.

HHS agencies will continue to work with leaders in Puerto Rico on health system recovery. This work includes:

  • the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising on public health, disease surveillance and injury prevention;
  • the Administration for Children and Families providing technical assistance on family services, including schools;
  • the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration addressing behavioral health concerns and long-term treatment needs;
  • the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services continuing to provide administrative flexibilities for Medicare and Medicaid; and
  • the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continuing to work with Puerto Rico and its considerable drug and medical device manufacturing base to ensure that supply of these products is maintained.

Information on health, safety and HHS actions are available at Public Service Announcements with post-storm health tips are available at Residents in the continental United States are encouraged to provide these tips to family members and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

HHS Acting Secretary Hargan Praises Passage of Tax Reform, Repeal of Obamacare’s Individual-Mandate Tax

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 16:15

U.S. Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan released the following statement after Congress passed tax reform legislation that includes a repeal of Obamacare's individual mandate:

“This tax reform legislation is a major step toward real healthcare freedom for our country, thanks to its repeal of the individual mandate. The mandate tax fell almost entirely on working class Americans, millions of whom decided that they didn’t want or can’t afford Washington-dictated healthcare plans.

“The broader tax reforms included in the bill will help boost the strong economic growth we have already seen under President Trump. A healthier economy is a boon to the health and well-being of Americans.”


The tax legislation passed by Congress repeals the individual-mandate tax penalty effective for tax year 2019.

In 2015, according to the IRS, nearly 6.7 million Americans paid the federal government more than $3 billion under the individual mandate.

Seventy-nine percent of households who paid the mandate tax in 2015 made less than $50,000.

OCR works with DOJ to ensure federally funded medical center provides communication services for deaf and hard of hearing patients

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - 13:45

The University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) has agreed to enter into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont (DOJ) to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. UVMMC is an academic medical center that is part of a six-hospital network, serving Vermont and Northern New York. It is a Level I Trauma Center and provides a full range of tertiary-level inpatient and outpatient services, as well as primary care services at 10 Vermont locations. The UVMMC Campus, a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont, is a 562-bed facility and includes most of UVMMC’s inpatient services and an emergency department.

OCR initiated a compliance review with UVMMC under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act after DOJ received two separate complaints alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its implementing regulation. The two separate complainants alleged that UVMMC failed to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services necessary for effective communication while they were receiving medical treatment. Both complainants are deaf and use American Sign Language as their primary means of communication. UVMMC is a recipient of HHS federal financial assistance and required to provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services to persons with impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills so that individuals have an equal opportunity to benefit from the services received.

“If patients cannot communicate effectively with medical providers, their access to health care will suffer,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “The Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act ensure that persons who are deaf or hard of hearing are given equal access to health care and this resolution shows that we are committed to enforcing this vital law.”

The voluntary resolution agreement requires UVMMC to take remedial actions, including providing notice of the availability of auxiliary aids and services, implementing grievance procedures and feedback protocols, providing training to UVMMC personnel, and updating policies and procedures through continued improvement. UVMMC has also agreed to pay the complainants $20,500 in compensatory relief. The agreement is effective for three years, during which time both OCR and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will monitor UVMMC’s compliance.

The voluntary resolution agreement may be found on the OCR website at

To learn more about non-discrimination and health information privacy laws, and to find information on filing a complaint, visit us at

Complaints may also be instituted with DOJ pursuant to Title III of the ADA if the hospital is a private hospital.

Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 (TDD 800-514-0383) or visit

Follow OCR on Twitter at

HHS highlights Office for Civil Rights' ongoing response to the opioid crisis, while implementing the 21st Century Cures Act

Monday, December 18, 2017 - 11:00

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today launched an array of new tools and initiatives in response to the opioid crisis, while implementing the 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114-255).  OCR continues its work to ensure that patients and their family members can get the information they need to prevent and address emergency situations, such as an opioid overdose or mental health crisis. At the same time, these tools and initiatives also fulfill requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act to ensure that the healthcare sector, researchers, patients, and their families understand how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects privacy and helps improve health and healthcare nationwide.

“President Trump has mobilized the entire Administration to address America’s opioid crisis,” said Roger Severino, Director of OCR.  “HHS is using every tool at its disposal to help communities devastated by opioids including educating families and doctors on how they can share information to help save the lives of loved ones.”

Highlights of these actions include:

  • Two new HIPAA webpages focused on information related to mental and behavioral health, one for professionals and another for consumers.  These webpages reorganize existing guidance to make it more user-friendly and provide a one-stop resource for our new guidance and materials.  This guidance is an important step forward in clarifying the circumstances under which HIPAA permits a covered entity to disclose information to family members and caregivers.
  • These webpages contain new HIPAA guidance on sharing information related to mental health and substance use disorder treatment with a patient's family, friends and others involved in the patient's care or payment for care.  The new information includes: a package of fact sheets; an infographic; decision charts, including materials specifically tailored to the parents of children who have a mental health condition; and scenarios that address sharing information when an individual experiences an opioid overdose.
  • New collaboration with partner agencies within HHS to identify and develop model programs and materials for training healthcare providers, patients, and their families regarding permitted uses and disclosures of the protected health information of patients seeking or undergoing mental health or substance use disorder treatment, and to develop a plan to share the programs and materials with professionals and consumers.
  • Updated guidance on HIPAA and research, as called for in the Cures Act:
  • Launch of a working group to study and report on the uses and disclosures under HIPAA of protected health information for research purposes. The working group will include representatives from relevant federal agencies as well as researchers, patients, healthcare providers, and experts in healthcare privacy, security, and technology.  The working group will release a report addressing whether uses and disclosures of PHI for research purposes should be modified to facilitate research while protecting individuals’ privacy rights.

For additional information on HIPAA, visit:

Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee Releases its First Report to Congress

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 07:00

People in the United States who experience serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbances need greater access to quality, affordable health care, according to a report released by the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC).

The report, The Way Forward: Federal Action for a System That Works for All People Living with SMI and SED and Their Families and Caregivers, was delivered to Congress on Wednesday, December 13. This first report from the ISMICC provides a roadmap for improving mental health services for adults living with serious mental illness and children and youth who experience serious emotional disturbances. The report contains five focus areas for the federal government and the mental health care system:

  1. Strengthen federal coordination to improve care
  2. Make it easier to get care that is an evidence-based best practice
  3. Close the gap between what works and what is offered
  4. Increase opportunities for individuals with serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance to be diverted from the criminal and juvenile justice systems and to improve care for those involved in the criminal and juvenile justice systems
  5. Develop finance strategies to increase availability and affordability of care

In 2016, more than 10 million adults in the U.S. were living with a serious mental illness. More than 7 million children and youth experienced a serious emotional disturbance. They faced a greater risk of suicide and life expectancy 10 years shorter than the general population.

The Report details other consequences of inadequate mental health care, including two million people with serious mental illness who are incarcerated each year.

“Better addressing the challenge of serious mental illness is one of the top three clinical priorities for the Department of Health and Human Services, and a priority for the Trump Administration,” said Acting Health and Human Services Secretary Eric D. Hargan. “We look forward to continuing to lead and work with the ISMICC to understand how we can improve our policies and practices in this area.”

“It is crucial to provide access to evidence-based mental health care before people experience negative outcomes,” said Dr. Elinore F. McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “Our health care system can do better, and the federal government can marshal its resources to help make that happen.”  Dr. McCance-Katz chairs the ISMICC in addition to heading the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Acting Secretary Hargan, Dr. McCance-Katz and other members of the ISMICC will discuss the recommendations in their first report to Congress at a press conference and public meeting today in Washington. More information on the ISMICC and today’s events is available at

Readout of Acting HHS Secretary Hargan Holds High-Level Opioids Meeting

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 09:30

On Tuesday, December 12, Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan held an unprecedented meeting with leaders from across the healthcare and human services components of HHS to discuss strategies for addressing America’s opioid crisis.

Following HHS’s declaration, at President Trump’s direction, of a historic nationwide public health emergency regarding the crisis, the meeting encouraged a new level of discussion and cooperation among key leaders of HHS’s divisions.

Acting Secretary Hargan offered opening remarks highlighting the dedication HHS has shown in response to President Trump’s call to action on the crisis. Leaders of operating divisions and staff divisions of HHS then shared updates on their work and their future plans for coordinating across the department.


Principals attending the meeting included:

Eric D. Hargan, Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary;
Elinore F. McCance-Katz, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use;
Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
Francis Collins, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health;
Scott Gottlieb, M.D., Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration;
Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services;
George Sigounas, Administrator, Health Resources and Service Administration;
RADM Michael Weahkee, Acting Director, Indian Health Service;
Gopal Khanna, Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality;
Mary Lazare, Principal Deputy Administrator, Administration for Community Living;
VADM Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General;
Don Wright, M.D., Acting Assistant Secretary for Health;
Roger Severino, Director, Office of Civil Rights;
Daniel Levinson, Inspector General;
Donald Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health Information Technology; and
Bruce Greenstein, Chief Technology Officer

Discussion was organized around HHS’s comprehensive five-point strategy to combat the opioid crisis:

  • Better prevention, treatment, and recovery services
  • Better targeting of overdose-reversing drugs
  • Better data on the epidemic
  • Better research on pain and addiction
  • Better pain management

To conclude the meeting, Acting Secretary Hargan thanked the HHS leaders and all HHS staff for their work, reiterated the President’s commitment to fighting the opioid crisis, and shared plans for ongoing regular meetings in the new year.