Democrats Ask Thompson to Implement New Privacy Rules
Congressional Democrats sent a letter to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday urging him to implement the medical privacy rules issued by the Clinton administration as scheduled on April 14, CongressDaily reports. (Fulton, CongressDaily, 3/20). The secretary announced last month he would "re-examine" the rules, and opened them up to a 30-day comment period. Democrats yesterday expressed concern that delaying implementation of the rules would effectively "kill the regulation," which requires providers "to better safeguard the privacy of patients' medical records." Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) noted that the Clinton administration moved ahead with the rules because Congress failed to enact a privacy law by a deadline established by the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. "Let's not forget that we're having this debate because Congress failed to act," he said. While providers and insurers, citing the long reach and potential compliance burdens of the regulations, have asked Thompson to delay their implementation, the Democrats said that HIPAA contains a provision which allows HHS "to work with providers and consumers on a case-by-case basis." The letter added, "However, this process cannot begin until the covered entities move forward with implementing the rule" (CongressDaily, 3/20).