HEALTH-DATA PRIVACY: NAIC Drafts Model Legislation
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is currently drafting model legislation on medical privacy, an effort that "has brought sharp criticism from industry groups." The Journal of Commerce reports that the NAIC draft would prevent inappropriate disclosures of medical records by requiring a patient's written authorization of any information release. Fred Townsend, Delaware's deputy insurance commissioner and a "member of the working group" on the issue, said, "The measure would enable aggrieved persons to file suit against an insurance company and other insurance entities that are licensed to assume risk -- such as hospitals," HMOs and workers compensation insurers. He said the model also "would establish standards that could be applied in civil or criminal proceedings." According to the Journal of Commerce, the NAIC working group could "present specifics for a model at NAIC's June meeting in Boston."
The NAIC plan is generating opposition from insurers. American Insurance Association spokesperson Elizabeth Story said NAIC's model "has the potential to expand the liability of both employers and insurers and increase workers compensation insurance premiums." If adopted, she said the model would "impede the ability of insurers and risk managers to effectively manage workers comp claims" and "oversee return-to-work programs for injured workers." Alliance of American Insurers Vice President John Lennes supports the NAIC model, contending that a worker with AIDS should have the right to conceal his disease from the employer. However, Lennes objected to the specifics of the NAIC plan. He said the written-consent provision would make it difficult for companies to prove "bogus" claims. "If it's a fraudulent claim, that person would have little incentive to provide his records showing that the injury he sustained in a trip-and-fall at his office actually related to him being injured at home lifting a couch three years ago," he said.
At The Starting Gate
The Journal of Commerce notes that California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont have medical records privacy proposals up for consideration. In California, state Sen. Tim Leslie (R) has introduced SB 1382, which would make the state "the first ... to implement uniform rules for protecting confidentiality of medical information," according to Barbara McPherson, a consultant to the state Senate Judiciary Committee. McPherson said the bill "would, among other things, tighten and clarify various state guidelines on requirements for a valid authorization to release medical information to anybody other than the patient himself or his health care provider" (Lent, 3/23).
The Post Chimes In
An editorial in Sunday's Washington Post contends that the multiplicity of ways in which medical information can now be obtained makes privacy legislation more critical than ever. The editorial states: "How many variations are there on the fear that something in your medical background might leak -- an embarrassing procedure in your past, a genetic disposition that could ruin your insurance, a life-threatening illness that could threaten your job, a former addiction? The editorial concludes, "the more aspects of life, personality and potential a thorough checkup by your doctor can send into your file, the greater the opportunity for those files to end up in hands that are neither the doctor's nor yours" (3/22).
On The Hill Today
The House Ways and Means health subcommittee is holding a hearing today on medical confidentiality legislation. Scheduled witnesses include Dr. Don Detmer, chair of the U.S. National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, and Jim Sloane, vice president of business development for American Medical Management (release, 3/23).