Eliminating Consent Requirement Would Take ‘Teeth’ Out of Medical Privacy Rule, Union-Tribune Says
The Bush administration's proposal to eliminate a requirement that providers, insurers, pharmacies and researchers obtain written consent from patients before they disclose their medical records would remove the "teeth" from new federal medical privacy rules, a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial says. According to the editorial, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson attributed the elimination of the provision to concerns that the requirement might have "serious unintended consequences" and could result in "diminished health care for many patients." The editorial adds that the health care industry has said the requirement would cost $18 billion over 10 years and result in "undue hardship" for the U.S. health care system. However, the Union-Tribune says that "it is hard to see how obtaining patient signatures would be such an economic burden upon the health care industry. Banks obtain signatures when customers cash checks. Restaurants obtain signatures when diners pay by credit card. Yet neither the banking nor restaurant industries claims hardship." The editorial concludes, "Bush administration officials chafe at the suggestion that they are doing the bidding of the health care industry. ... But those officials will have a hard time convincing the overwhelming majority of Americans, which feels strongly that medical records should be kept confidential" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/26).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.