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NCRA president addresses concerns over HIPAA regulations

June 26, 2014

NCRA president addresses concerns over HIPAA regulations

Nancy Varallo calls on Small Business Administration to consider potential impact on niche industry

       

VIENNA, Va., June 25, 2014--The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the country’s leading organization representing stenographic court reporters and captioners, today announced that its President Nancy Varallo, a court reporting firm owner from Worcester, Mass., testified today at a National Regulatory Fairness hearing before the U.S. Small Business Administration. Varallo expressed concerns over the potential impact new compliance regulations regarding HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) pose to court reporting professionals.

In her testimony, Varallo said she is concerned that the new regulations requiring companies to become compliant with HIPAA are a solution in search of a problem.

Under HIPAA, which took effect in 1996, major organizations such as health systems, insurance companies, and hospitals that have failed to institute proper privacy protections for protected health information, have faced major fines. However, in recent years, the same enforcement efforts have begun impacting smaller businesses. Court reporting firms are concerned because most handle protected health information on a regular basis, often via mobile devices and cloud computing methods.

“Court reporters are long familiar with the need to keep personal information private,” Varallo told the hearing panel. “We maintain the integrity of personally identifiable information that we encounter on a daily basis. We know how to use technology, such as DropBox accounts, to avoid sending PII as attachments to emails. We are careful in handling documents that contain PII,” she added.

“Litigation brings us into contact with confidential business information that requires us to be extra careful in handling such information. Many court reporters around the country are hired to report grand jury proceedings; and the confidentiality rules for grand jury testimony are strict and must be met without fail.”

Varallo also noted that there is no history of court reporters violating confidentiality rules and emphasized that the newly enacted HIPAA regulations require compliance by business associates of covered entities, yet are unclear about exactly who are those vendors. She posed the question whether court reporters are vendors of lawyers and further stated that if lawyers are considered vendors, would it allowable for them to force their court reporters to sign business associate agreements, potentially transferring the burden of compliance. In her testimony, Varallo also noted under the law, lawyers would be able to craft their own business associate agreements, ultimately creating a nightmare of regulatory paperwork.

“The goal of protecting personal medical information will not be advanced if the HIPAA regulations are interpreted to require us to sign BAAs. We court reporters understand the need to protect personal medical information. We deal with it every day. And our stellar track record as an industry, albeit a tiny one, proves we know how to meet our obligations,” she said.

“I urge you to consider the potential impact of these detailed regulations on the niche industry I represent. Requiring BAAs of some business entities will clearly advance the goals of the HIPAA regulations. But requiring court reporters to sign BAAs will not achieve any useful purpose because they will contain a welter of conflicting requirements.”

For more information, visit NCRA.org. Career information about the court reporting profession—one of the leading career options that do not require a traditional four-year degree—can be found at CareersInCourtReporting.com. For information about captioning, visit CaptioningMatters.com.

 

About NCRA

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is internationally recognized for promoting excellence among those who capture and convert the spoken word to text for more than 100 years. NCRA is committed to supporting its more than 16,000 members in achieving the highest level of professional expertise with educational opportunities and industry-recognized court reporting, educator and videographer certification programs. NCRA impacts legislative issues and the global marketplace through its actively involved membership. Forbes has named court reporting as one of the best career options that do not require a traditional four-year degree and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the court reporting field is expected to grow by 14 percent through the year 2020. For more information, visit NCRA.org.