House Democrats Introduce Bill To Restore Patient Consent Provisions in Medical Privacy Rule
Several House Democrats last week introduced a bill (HR 5646) that would restore patient consent provisions that the Bush administration eliminated in a medical privacy rule issued earlier this year, Health Information Privacy Alert reports (Health Information Privacy Alert, October 2002). In August, the Bush administration issued a final medical privacy rule, which applies to electronic but not paper medical records, that allows providers to share the records for the purposes of treatment and other "health care operations." Under the regulation, providers must obtain consent from patients before they can disclose medical records in "nonroutine" cases. However, providers do not have to obtain written consent before they disclose medical records, a provision included in an earlier version of the rule issued by the Clinton administration. Providers only have to inform patients of their new rights and make a "good faith effort" to obtain written acknowledgment from patients that they have received the information. Some Democrats, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and privacy advocates criticized the elimination of the patient consent provisions in the final rule (California Healthline, 8/12). Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John Dingell (D-Mich.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) introduced the "Stop Taking Our Health Privacy Act" to address the concerns (Markey statement, 10/16). The legislation would require providers to inform patients when they receive payments from pharmaceutical companies to send unsolicited promotional materials and would place restrictions on the use and disclosure of medical records by companies regulated by the FDA.
Although the bill has "virtually no chance" of passage this year, the legislation, as well as Kennedy's objections over the elimination of the patient consent provisions in the medical privacy rule, serves as a "sure sign" that the issue will receive attention next year in the event that the Democrats assume control of Congress, Health Information Privacy Alert reports (Health Information Privacy Alert, October 2002).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.