On June 21, 2011, a Federal Grand Jury in Virginia filed an indictment against a physician for criminal violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). The indictment alleges three (3) counts of unauthorized disclosure of a patient’s individually identifiable health information to an agent of the patient’s employer. The indictment alleges that the physician provided the patient in-patient mental health treatment at a psychiatric care center in August and September 2007.
Each count charges that in February 2008, the physician knowingly and in violation of HIPAA disclosed the patient’s protected health information under the false pretense that the disclosure was necessary because the patient was a serious and imminent threat to the safety of the public, when the physician, in fact, knew the patient was not a serious and imminent threat to the public.
Because the alleged disclosures were made under “false pretenses,” if found guilty, the physician could face a fine of not more than $100,000.00 or imprisonment of not more than five (5) years, or both per violation.