Business Associates of Covered Entities Under HIPAA

This article addresses in general terms the requirements of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) as supplemented by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH Act”) on the discrete issue of privacy requirements placed upon “covered entities” in regard to their business associates. Before tackling the issue of contracts between covered entities and their business associates, let us first discuss the HIPAA privacy rule in general before focusing upon the relationship between covered entities and their outside contractors.

Basically, the HIPAA privacy rule includes standards for protection of individually identifiable health information, known in regulatory parlance as Protected Health Information (“PHI”). “Individually identifiable health information” is data that relates to an individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition for which there is a reasonable basis to believe the data can be used to identify said individual. The HIPAA privacy rule applies to certain health care providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouses (“covered entities”) creating standards for protection of PHI and an individual’s rights with regard to his or her PHI. More specifically, covered entities are defined as “health plans, health care clearinghouses, and to any health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with transactions for which the Secretary of HHS has adopted standards under HIPAA.” See Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule at HHS website. What information is protected? “All medical records and other individually identifiable health information used or disclosed by a covered entity in any form, whether electronically, on paper, or orally, are covered by the final rule.” See About HIPAA Privacy Rule at CDC website.

Although the HIPAA statute itself only speaks of privacy restrictions placed upon covered entities, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued regulations extending the reach of the HIPAA privacy rules to business associates of covered entities. A business associate is an outside contractor that performs activities involves the use or disclosure of PHI by the covered entity to the contractor. Examples includes accountants, medical billing firm, or an independent medical transcriptionist.

“The Privacy Rule requires that the satisfactory assurances obtained from the business associate be in the form of a written contract (or other written arrangement, as between governmental entities) between the covered entity and the business associate that contains the elements specified at Sec. 164.504(e). For example, the agreement must identify the uses and disclosures of protected health information the business associate is permitted or required to make, as well as require the business associate to put in place appropriate safeguards to protect against a use or disclosure not permitted by the contract or agreement.” Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, HHS Explanation of Final Regulations (August 14, 2002) Link. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 (“HITECH Act”) placed additional requirements on safeguarding PHI. Most notably, HITECH obligates business associates of covered entities to comply with HIPAA’s Security Rule for administrative, physical, and technical safeguard of PHI.

The upshot of the foregoing is that covered entities must enter into contracts with their business associates who have access to PHI. No specific wording is mandated by the regulations; however, a covered entity’s contract with business associates must contain the elements set forth in 45 CFR 164.504(e), i.e., the final HIPAA regulations promulgated by HHS. For example, the contract must describe the permitted uses of PHI and provide that the business associate will not use or disclose PHI other than as permitted by the contract. HITECH requires a business associate, upon discovery of a breach of security of PHI under its control, to notify the covered entity, which then must notify the impacted individual. This duty of the business associate to disclose breaches of PHI security to the covered entity should also be in the contract.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule excepts from the above standard certain disclosures by a covered entity. Specifically, the standard does not apply to disclosures by a covered entity to a health care provider for treatment purposes; disclosures to the plan sponsor by a group health plan, or a health insurance issuer or HMO with respect to a group health plan, to the extent that the requirements of Sec. 164.504(f) apply and are met; or to the collection and sharing of protected health information by a health plan that is a public benefits program and an agency other than the agency administering the health plan, where the other agency collects protected health information for, or determines eligibility or enrollment with respect to, the government program, and where such activity is authorized by law. See Regulation Sec. 164.502(e)(1)(ii).

The Value of Joining a Small Business Association – How to Help Your Business Grow

Small business associations are similar to trade associations. But rather than focusing on a specific industry, a small business association focuses on small companies in general. What this means is that entrepreneurs have somewhere to go for a resource which is very helpful when things get rough.

One thing that many business owners struggle with is whether to join a business related association or trade association. As an entrepreneur the first thing you have to realize is that a trade association is not better than a small business association nor is a business association better than a trade association. Both of these associations are beneficial to small companies, the difference is that one focuses on the industry specifics and the other focuses on the business aspect as a whole.

One of the best reasons to join an association is that the association will provide you with programs that are designed to help your business. These programs can help your business grow, but they can also help make your business more professional. The majority of these programs offer key speakers that will speak about specific topics related to all kinds of entrepreneurial issues.

A trade association is beneficial because they provide special programs that are offered throughout the year that focus on your industry specifically. These programs can be structured to help your business grow, but they can also help you improve your internal processes. Trade associations will also provide speakers each month that speak about your industry directly and often times indirectly.

Another great benefit about joining both a trade association and a small business association is that they often have different types of expos. A small business association will put on an expo that encompasses everything that you need to know about running a company, such as different software vendors, cash register vendors or anything else that you need to run a small biz.

A trade expo is going to be a lot more focused on your profession. Trade expos also allow the members to participate and show off their products. These trade expos can be used to expand your knowledge in your industry, but also gain insight into what your competitors are doing and find out what is new in your market.

Majority of associations also put out a monthly newsletter. What is included in the newsletter will vary depending on if it is a trade association or a small business association. Many times the newsletter will provide you with new information about what is going on with the association, such as what you can do to improve your bookkeeping for example.

By becoming a member of a small business association or a trade association, you will be able to create an ever growing network with other people who share your interests. By creating a network you will meet some of the most valuable people to help your business grow and these same people will often help you expand your knowledge.

Join Small Business Associations

Small business associations are similar to trade associations. But rather than focusing on a specific industry, a small business association focuses on small companies in general. What this means is that entrepreneurs have somewhere to go for a resource which is very helpful when things get rough.

One thing that many business owners struggle with is whether to join a business related association or trade association. As an entrepreneur the first thing you have to realize is that a trade association is not better than a small business association nor is a business association better than a trade association. Both of these associations are beneficial to small companies, the difference is that one focuses on the industry specifics and the other focuses on the business aspect as a whole.

One of the best reasons to join an association is that the association will provide you with programs that are designed to help your business. These programs can help your business grow, but they can also help make your business more professional. The majority of these programs offer key speakers that will speak about specific topics related to all kinds of entrepreneurial issues.

A trade association is beneficial because they provide special programs that are offered throughout the year that focus on your industry specifically. These programs can be structured to help your business grow, but they can also help you improve your internal processes. Trade associations will also provide speakers each month that speak about your industry directly and often times indirectly.

Another great benefit about joining both a trade association and a small business association is that they often have different types of expos. A small business association will put on an expo that encompasses everything that you need to know about running a company, such as different software vendors, cash register vendors or anything else that you need to run a small biz.

A trade expo is going to be a lot more focused on your profession. Trade expos also allow the members to participate and show off their products. These trade expos can be used to expand your knowledge in your industry, but also gain insight into what your competitors are doing and find out what is new in your market.

Majority of associations also put out a monthly newsletter. What is included in the newsletter will vary depending on if it is a trade association or a small business association. Many times the newsletter will provide you with new information about what is going on with the association, such as what you can do to improve your bookkeeping for example.

By becoming a member of a small business association or a trade association, you will be able to create an ever growing network with other people who share your interests. By creating a network you will meet some of the most valuable people to help your business grow and these same people will often help you expand your knowledge.

Why Start and Incorporate a Business Association

When you are starting a business, one of your main objectives is the potential expansion of your company and to become a major player in the market. There are many ways to grow and today we want to show you an effective way to join forces with your competitors and incorporating a Business Association. Ideally this Association would be representative of your industry and will include major companies in the sector. Establishing a new Association is rather simple and inexpensive. Incorporating an Association requires some paperwork but benefits outweigh the time and effort.

But remember there are differences between an incorporated Business Association and non-incorporated Association. We always encourage incorporating your Association as they offer several practical and potential benefits.

Here are some benefits that may help you to decide:

Accessing to More Funds
By starting an Association you have the ability to borrow funds from banks. Also by qualifying for tax exempt status, it is more likely to have access to public and private grants. You may use these funds in starting campaigns in order to promote your products or industry.

Tax Exemption
Business Associations usually are exempt from paying property and income taxes. In another word as long as income is related to charitable activities, your Association will not pay income tax on it.

Power of Advocacy
By forming a Business Association you will have the power to influence politics and lobby among decision-making public authorities and use this power in benefiting of your industry.

Protection from Personal Liabilities
Your Association can be a target of an unwanted lawsuit due to its advocacy efforts however, incorporated Association will play its role to put you in a better situation and protect you from potential issues. A Business Association may be sued, but its legal protections will shield personal belongings of members and officers such as properties, vehicles and money which are generally protected from personal liability.

Gather Donations
When you are working for the right cause you will be amazed to know that there are many donors out there willing to help you. Tax laws usually encourage people and corporations to donate funds and properties to non-profit organizations. If your Business Association qualifies as a tax exempt organization, it is more likely to gather donations, as donors can deduct it on federal and state tax returns.

Separate Legal Status
A Business Association has its own legal status and bylaws and as a result, it has the power to sign contracts in its own name, giving them the ability to have transactions apart from its members or officers. An Association may also take legal action against others if necessary.

Property Ownership
An Incorporated Business Association has the right of holding a property title. You may find it strange but in some places unincorporated Associations do not have this right to hold a title on their name.

There are also other small benefits to the incorporation of a Business Association which vary by country and location. For example in the United States of America you can get a discount on your postage.

Incorporating a New Business Association

Incorporating a Business Association is very much similar to forming a Corporation, except that in Business Association you can have the advantage of applying for tax exempt status, which requires a little bit more paperwork and applying for the proper permits from authorities.

Before starting the incorporating process you need to take the following steps:

· Recruit the founding members and secure the start-up funds

· Get the necessary formal commitments from founders

· Develop all proposed member benefits and the mission statement

· Define and create the governing structure for the organization

· Create a framework for your Association

· Form an executive committee (steering committee)

After preparing the above mentioned materials, it is preferable to hire an Association Management Company to start-up the launch. Association Management Companies specialize in providing management services for Associations on a fee basis. Regardless of the Business Association’s nature, sector, size or even location, they can provide support, technology and even space and equipment for the smooth operation of Associations. They provide their services to a number of Associations and with the levels of experience they offer, can ensure the smooth operation of your Business Association. However, this task may also be performed by the Association officers, who may handle the task, depending on their experience level.

Incorporate as a Business Association

In order to incorporate as Business Association, here is what you need to do:

1. Choose a name: Choose an appropriate available name for your Business Association that meets the requirement of your country’s law and also indicate the nature of its existence. Remember in some countries, the use of certain words is prohibited and the name cannot be the same as other company or organization. You should also make sure that the name will not violate any trademarks.

2. Appoint Directors: Usually when you are filling out necessary documents for incorporation, you should list the name of directors.

3. Filing Documents: File the required paperwork and articles of incorporation, according to the regulations of your country, to the official bodies. Articles of incorporation contain basic structural information about your Business Association such as name, registered office address and so on. Usually this process will incur a small fee.

4. Tax Exemption: If applicable, apply for tax exemptions and include all tax exempt purposes and all other essential information.

5. Create Bylaws: This is a very important task as there are many benefits that may be received from investing additional time, effort, thought and research in the creation of the bylaws. It may be wise to consult with an attorney, to ensure these are written correctly to avoid any future issues. In some countries you are not required to produce bylaws for Associations. However, it could be advantages to do so anyway, as bylaws will set the rules of conduct, authority and procedures for directors and officers in your Business Association. Complete understanding of these rules by the officers will make the operation of your organization much easier. You may find free versions of articles of Association on internet (in some countries authorities will provide you a standard copy) and you can change it according to your needs. Remember you can change it anytime according to your needs!

6. First Board of Directors Meeting: The first order for almost every new incorporated organization is to hold a meeting to approve the necessary standard items for operations. Whoever signed and filed the articles on behalf of the Business Association will hold the meeting. Items to be discussed in this meeting usually are accounting period, tax year, approving bylaws, issuance of memberships, certificates, membership dues, establishing specialized committees, appointing officers, approving transactions, opening bank accounts and tax exemption terms. It is advantageous to keep minutes of the first meeting as well as any other meetings in your records.

7. Licenses and Permits: Obtain licenses and permits that may be required for your corporation.

After incorporating your Business Association, remember that you are just started and you should take necessary actions to develop your organization such as:

· Develop a logo and brand materials

· Develop a website

· Announce the launch of your Business Association to the world through press releases

· Prepare membership marketing materials

· Create a membership recruitment campaign

· Develop a business sector marketing campaign

Your Local Business Association – Is It Right For You?

As a small business owner you need to carefully pick and choose where your hard-earned money is going to go. Maybe you’ve considered joining your local business association but aren’t sure it’s worth the cost of the yearly dues, or maybe you simply don’t know enough about the benefits such an association can provide.

Annual dues for membership vary from association to association. Generally they range from $25.00 to $250.00. But, you get what you pay for, which means those with higher fees offer more benefits. Dues are used to pay for speakers, meeting rooms and special events, as well as cover any administrative and printing costs (for newsletters and other publications). They usually include a listing in the association’s directory, subscription to the monthly newsletter, and sometimes, one (business size) ad in the newsletter.

Ultimately, deciding to join your local business association is up to you, but understanding the benefits such associations provide will help you make that decision.

Ask what your local association offers in the way of:

Networking Opportunities – Most associations have several per month. Many have a weekly “Tips Club” or “Business Card Exchange” where members can share customer/client leads. Other groups offer after-hours coffees and/or monthly luncheons. All of these events give the small business owner an opportunity to build relationships with other business owners in the area who can provide insights unique to the local marketplace.

Special Insurance Rates and Information – Many associations (usually the larger ones) offer members special rates on health insurance and worker’s compensation. Some associations offer workshops to educate new business owners about the kinds of insurance they will need.

Educational Programs – Most associations (no matter how large or small) offer at least a few yearly educational programs of interest to small business owners, including workshops about tax laws, record keeping, computing for business, marketing, etc. Some do this on a monthly basis. Find out how regularly your association provides these kinds of opportunities and ask what subjects have been covered in past programs.

Security Services – Business owners who can’t afford to pay for a security service on their own pool money with other members in the association and pay to have the business area patrolled (since businesses are all within a few miles of one another). Also, some associations set up a business “Block Watch.” One business owner on each block watches out and lets everyone on that block know if anything suspicious is seen.

A Member Directory – Most associations publish a yearly directory, which lists each member’s business name, address, and phone number. These directories are given to each member and are also sent to board members of local homes associations, churches, schools, and other area groups so the entire community is made aware of the products and services available by area businesses.

Discount Rates – Often members of an association are able to pool their resources to get advertising from newspapers, radio, TV, etc. at a discount rate, as well as discounts on other products and services like shipping, pagers and cell phones, etc.

Yearly Events – Many associations sponsor a yearly event designed to increase members’ visibility within the community – something like a street fair or a festival. It’s a great way to introduce people in the community to their local business owners. An association might also offer a “Tax Day Conference” to bring representatives from every sort of tax agency under one roof to answer tax questions, conduct seminars and distribute information in a “non-threatening” environment. Individual business owners would spend a lot more money to get this kind of extensive information on their own.

Community Service Opportunities – Some business associations raise money to provide community service projects in their areas or they simply donate money to local groups. This creates goodwill between business owners and members of the community. Not only does the community benefit from this, the business owner does, too. When residents feel a local business is friendly and caring they’re more apt to buy the services or products of that business.

A Newsletter and Web Site – A monthly newsletter lets a business owner know what’s going on with other businesses in his area. It also gives him a chance to have his business spotlighted from time to time. Some associations have a “Member of the Month” featured in each newsletter, and press releases introduce new businesses to the community. Many associations now have Web sites, which give business owners even more opportunities for promoting their products and services.

A Chance to Speak Out – Joining your local business association gives you a collective voice for determining what will happen within your business neighborhood. Associations usually work together with area homes associations, schools, churches, etc. for the overall good of the community. Find out how closely these groups work together in your area.

Obviously, every association can’t offer ALL of the above benefits, but most members still find their local business association a source of invaluable support.

Decision on Starting a New Business Association

In the modern business world everything changes rapidly and businesses need to respond to these changes fast. They can use all the available supports and a rather easy and effective means to respond is by starting a “Business Association”.

For every Association in the world, there has been a moment of decision to start a new organization when a group of businesses unite for a common goal and said “We need a representative for our products and services in our sector”.

Starting a new Association is rather reasonable and simple, but the question that you should ask is, “Is this the correct action for your business to initiate?”

In this paper I am going to help you with your decision and whether it is feasible and logical to start a new Association.

Appropriate Situations to Start a New Business Association:

• Regulation changes in business sectors.

• No Association in your sector to represent your industry.

• Changes in business sector nature for which the existing Association’s structures are not feasible.

• Existing Associations will not satisfy your business needs.

Who Should Join to New Business Association?

In order to start the new Association, the group of businesses needs to join forces together. Ideally this group will be a representative of the industry and will consist of major players in field. Remember it is more likely to achieve your goals when the Association consists of a majority of the business sector and powerful players.

Before you start incorporating your Association, there are some very important issues that you should clarify which will help you decide whether start your Business Association or not.

• Similar Business Associations

First of all, you have to find out if there are similar Associations with the same mission of your proposed organization. If there is a similar organization which serves the purpose of other companies in your field, you might want to consider joining them instead of starting a parallel organization, unless it is an ineffective organization. In this case many of the members may join you on your cause.

• Competitor Organizations

Find out if there are any competitors to your Association that may jeopardize your Business Association.

• Mission

Specify the proposed mission of your Business Association.

• Goals

Clarify the goals you want to achieve and create a schedule for reaching them.

• Sector Reputation

Find out about Product/Service reputation in the market and ways to improve it

• Similar Companies

Determine the number of companies in similar fields, who might join your Business Association.

• Industry Growth Possibility

Find out about the possibility of growth and probable new start-ups in similar fields during a specific time.

When you have figured all the above mentioned issues and reached the conclusion that starting a new Association is the best way for you to continue, you should choose the type of Association.

• Unincorporated Business Association

Significant numbers of Associations in the world are unincorporated as it is the least costly and most flexible type. It is an easy and simple process with a minimal amount of paperwork. In some countries it is not even necessary to register the Association with official bodies. However with this type of Association you lose considerable advantages received with an incorporated Business Association.

• Incorporated Business Association

When you are going to start an Association, incorporating one would be the right move. You can benefit from many advantages that they offer such as access to more public and private funds, tax exemption if you qualify, power of advocacy, protection from personal liabilities, donations if you qualify for tax exempt, separate legal status, property ownership rights and sometimes even discounts on your expenses.

Following you will find the next steps you should take:

• Benefits that this new organization will bring to its members

• Regulatory issues about incorporating Associations

• Determine type of organization such as tax exempt, non-profit or for profit

• Needed personnel and employees

• Availability of funds to start your Business Association

• Estimating cost and expenses of running the Association

• Possibility of generating revenue by offering services such as courses and educational materials

• Membership fees and dues that each stakeholder shall pay

• Competitiveness of your Association amongst other similar organizations

So far, we have covered some of the basics which will help you to make better decisions on starting a Business Association.