HHS May Issue Revisions to ‘Controversial’ Medical Privacy Rule Revisions Today
The Bush administration today may issue a final version of "controversial" revisions to the medical privacy rule offered by the Clinton administration early last year, USA Today reports (Appleby, USA Today, 8/9). In March, HHS proposed a series of revisions to the rule, including a proposal to eliminate a provision that would require providers, health insurers and pharmacies to obtain written consent from patients before they disclose their medical records. The revised provision states that patients "must at some point be notified about their privacy rights by those who use their records" for purposes such as treatment and payment of claims. However, the proposed revisions would require providers to have "explicit permission" from patients to use their medical records for marketing purposes. The revisions also would ease restrictions on parental access to children's medical records and restrictions for researchers who access patient records (California Healthline, 3/22). The Bush administration said that the medical privacy rule as issued last year would have "blocked doctors from sharing important information" and could have delayed access to care.
However, opponents said that the proposed revisions to the regulation would "undermine privacy protections" for patients. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), one of six Democrats who sent a letter late last month to the Bush administration over concerns about the proposed revisions, said, "The Bush administration proposes huge loopholes in medical privacy protections. The administration will significantly undermine consumer privacy if it finalizes these loopholes." HHS spokesperson Bill Pierce said that the agency will issue the final version of the revisions to the medical privacy rule today or early next week (USA Today, 8/9).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.