Health Industry Renews Criticism of Privacy Rules
With under pressure" to "weaken" a patient privacy rule issued in the last month of the Clinton administration, health care industry leaders and Republicans yesterday called for "major changes" to the regulation, the Washington Post reports. During a House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee hearing yesterday, industry leaders "complained again" that the rule would "hurt patient care and raise costs." Carlos Ortiz, director of government affairs for CVS Corp., said, "This is a prescription for chaos," calling the patient privacy regulation "unworkable." Subcommittee Republicans also criticized the rule. "Why in God's name put a rule in place we know is wrong?" Rep. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) said at the hearing, adding, "Let's just step back and give this new [HHS] secretary .... some time" (O'Harrow, Washington Post, 3/23). In addition, Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.) said that the "dismal" patient privacy rule "embraces an uneven patchwork quilt of differing standards that will leave consumers and providers confused," adding, "It will harm, not help, consumers" (Greenwood release, 3/22). However, supporters called the patient privacy rule "overdue." Mary Foley, president of the American Nurses Association, told the panel, "I'm very worried a business climate is prevailing here. I'm worried there is a real effort to find reason to delay or derail the regulations" (Washington Post, 3/23). She added, "The regulation as issued is too important to be delayed or rescinded" (ANA release, 3/22).
Supporters of the rule also have accused the Bush administration, which has delayed the rule's effective date and reopened its comment period, of "bending to the wishes of industries" that the Center for Responsive Politics says contributed $7.4 million to Bush and the Republican party in the last two years. "Some are saying that [the patient privacy rule] needs some fine-tuning, or that some sections need to be fixed. Make no mistake -- that is not what the industry giants with money to burn are really trying to do," Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in recent weeks, adding that the health care industry intends to "kill the medical privacy rule, and they are trying to get the new administration to pull the trigger." Although industry representatives met with members of the panel to "air their concerns" before the hearing was scheduled, subcommittee spokesperson Ken Johnson said that the meetings "played no role in the decision" to hold the hearing, adding, "No one's leaning on us to hold a hearing. We're doing it because it's our responsibility" (Washington Post, 3/23).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.