Democratic National Committee Makes Medical Privacy ‘Top Campaign Policy Issue’ for 2002
The Democratic National Committee for the first time has named medical privacy a "top campaign policy issue" and plans to urge Democratic candidates to "push opponents to take a stance" on the issue, TechnologyDaily/PM reports. The DNC announced the decision in an e-mail sent to supporters last Friday in response to a Bush administration proposal to ease federal medical privacy regulations (Vaida, Technology Daily/PM, 3/29). The administration has proposed a series of changes, including easing a rule that requires providers, health insurers and pharmacies to obtain written consent from patients before disclosing medical records. The new requirement would state that patients "must at some point be notified about their privacy rights by those who use their records" for treatment and payment of claims (California Healthline, 3/22). The DNC also encouraged supporters to send e-mails to the White House urging President Bush not to offer "another gift to the special interests in the insurance industry." DNC spokesperson Bill Buck said, "President Bush made this issue political by stripping Americans of their medical privacy rights. We will urge Democrats to challenge opponents to make a decision about whether they are with individual rights for medical privacy or whether they are with the Bush administration."
Medical privacy has become a "popular polling issue" over the past several years, although it remains secondary to other domestic issues, TechnologyDaily/PM reports. A number of candidates, including Bush, campaigned on the issue in the 2000 elections. Electronic Privacy Information Center Executive Director Marc Rotenberg, an advocate of medical privacy, predicted that the issue "certainly will resonate with voters" in the 2002 elections, "particularly because Bush campaigned on supporting legislation to protect medical privacy that included prior consent before medical information could be shared." He said, "The administration should be held accountable for what it does and doesn't do with privacy. [D]uring the campaign, Bush said he favored medical privacy legislation. ... So this is an about-face" (TechnologyDaily/PM, 3/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.