Office of the Secretary, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
The Office for Civil Rights ensures equal, nondiscriminatory access to and receipt of all the Department’s services and the protection of privacy and security of health information, thereby contributing to the Department’s overall mission of improving the health and well‑being of all Americans affected by its many programs.
OCR Budget Overview
(Dollars in millions)
1/ Reflects the annualized level of the Continuing Resolution that ended April 28, 2017, including the across the board reduction, the 21st Century Cures Act, and directed transfers.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget request for the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is $33 million, $6 million below the FY 2017 Continuing Resolution level. The Budget supports OCR’s essential programmatic focus as the primary defender of the public’s right to nondiscriminatory access to and receipt of HHS funded health and human services, conscience protections, consumer access to health information, and privacy and security protections for individually identifiable health information. In FY 2018, OCR will reduce overhead and non‑personnel costs. OCR will also use civil monetary settlement funds to support Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) enforcement activities.
OCR works to safeguard individuals’ access to health care, health coverage, and human services without discrimination, as well as protecting conscience rights. In addition, OCR enforces civil rights protections with respect to race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex discrimination in health programs that receive financial assistance or are administered by the Department. OCR also enforces protection of conscience rights of individuals, providers, and entities that object to abortion and sterilization procedures.
Other Compliance Activities
OCR reviews nearly 2,500 Medicare provider applicants a year to assess compliance with Federal civil rights requirements. Through its current formal agreements with 54 health care corporations, OCR ensures ongoing compliance in more than 4,600 facilities that serve over 11 million patients annually.
OCR works with its Federal agency partners to ensure language accessibility and will continue to work with colleagues across the Department to ensure that all individuals, including those with limited English proficiency, have access to HHS-conducted programs and activities, and can obtain the health care, health coverage, and human services they need to lead fulfilling lives.
OCR provides technical assistance and education to States and its Federal agency partners to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. OCR disseminates information, creates virtual learning communities, works on guidance documents, and provides webinars on topics such as housing and Medicaid services that provide individuals with disabilities opportunities to live in their communities.
Health Information Privacy and Security
OCR administers and enforces the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules. OCR is responsible for policy development through the issuance of regulations and guidance. OCR also provides outreach and technical assistance to the regulated community to ensure covered entities and business associates understand their compliance obligations and to the public to increase individuals’ awareness of their HIPAA rights and protections.
OCR enforces the HIPAA Rules by investigating complaints and conducting compliance reviews of alleged violations of the HIPAA Rules, providing technical assistance and obtaining corrective actions, as well as entering into resolution agreements or issuing civil monetary penalties, where appropriate. OCR resolved more than 23,000 complaints of alleged HIPAA violations in FY 2016.
Settlements and Civil Monetary Penalties
OCR has authority to enter into resolution agreements that include payment of a resolution amount and corrective action plans, as well as imposing civil monetary penalties for violations of the HIPAA Rules. OCR retains these collections and expends some of such funds to support overall HIPAA enforcement activities.