Long before enactment of HIPAA, substance use disorder (“SUD”) treatment records have enjoyed confidentiality protections under 42 C.F.R. Part 2 (“Part 2”). Since HIPAA/HITECH and related regulations went into effect, SUD treatment providers that are subject to Part 2 (“Part 2 programs”) have struggled to make sense of the inconsistencies between Part 2 and HIPAA. For example, Part 2 programs cannot rely on HIPPA’s treatment, payment or health care operations exception to the authorization requirement because Part 2 is more restrictive than HIPAA and only permits disclosure of Part 2 records without a consent under limited circumstances. These types of inconsistencies, historically, have created numerous operational burdens for Part 2 programs and impeded care coordination.
Part 2 plays an important role to help address concerns that discrimination and fear of prosecution would deter individuals from seeking SUD treatment. It has been challenging for regulators to balance the heightened need for confidentiality of SUD treatment records with the need for sufficient operational flexibility to allow for effective care coordination and treatment.
HHS issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing rules that implement statutory amendments to section 290dd-2 of title 42 United States Code (42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2) enacted in section 3221 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Public comments on the NPRM were due by January 31, 2023. HHS is proposing to give providers 24 months to comply with the changes after the publication of the final rule, but it has welcomed comments on whether that compliance period is sufficient.[i]