Claim Alleges Privacy Violations Related to Hospital Funding Measure in San Diego County
The San Diego Union-Tribune on Wednesday examined arguments surrounding a lawsuit that accuses doctors of violating patient privacy rights after they supplied information to a political action committee supporting Proposition BB (Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune , 2/9).
Proposition BB was a $496 billion construction bond measure placed on the Nov. 2, 2004, ballot by Palomar Pomerado Health. The measure -- which raises funds to go toward a $753 million 453-bed hospital; an upgraded Palomar Medical Center and Pomerado Hospital; and new satellite medical facilities -- was approved by 70% of inland North San Diego County voters.
David Sossaman has charged that his physician illegally supplied his contact information to Citizens for Better Health Care -- Yes on BB, a political action committee supporting Proposition BB. He also alleges that the PAC then sold his information to telemarketers and more telemarketers called him after the election (California Healthline, 1/31).
According to the Union-Tribune, it is unclear whether the case constitutes a violation of the medical privacy rules under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act because the rules permit doctors to correspond with their patients, according to Rick Campanelli, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights.
"There's nothing in the law that describes political campaigns on bond issues," he said, adding, "The rule protects patient information but permits communication that assists in treatment of the individual and communication for fund-raising purposes for the benefit of the provider."
A California privacy law states that patients' health information cannot be used for marketing products and services to patients.
"But what are the products and services?" Joan McNabb, chief of the state Office of Privacy Protection, said, adding, "There's nothing here that shows whether a bond measure would fall under that. It's not obvious. I just can't tell" (Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune , 2/9).
In related news, Palomar Pomerado Health will create an independent citizen's oversight committee to ensure that funds from Proposition BB are spent properly on the hospital district's expansion plan, the Union-Tribune reports. Applications for the committee will be accepted through April 1.
The nine-member group has reserved four seats for a business-organization applicants, a member of a senior citizen's organization, a member of a taxpayers association and a nurse or physician (Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune , 2/9).