Industry Calls for Easing of Privacy Rules
Health care industry officials called yesterday for an easing of medical privacy regulations issued by the Clinton administration on Dec. 20, while privacy advocates said the rules should be made "even tougher," during an oversight hearing conducted by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, the Wall Street Journal reports. The rules would give individuals the right to see and amend their records, restrict release of medical information, require providers and health plans to develop policies to protect privacy and require written consent from patients to use medical information in nonemergency situations. The rules will take effect Feb. 23, but the "deadline for compliance" is in 2003.
Representatives of hospitals, insurers and employers have said the rules are "unworkable" because they are "so complicated and costly," the Journal reports. During the hearing, Jane Greenman, deputy general counsel at Honeywell International Inc., said that the rules should be withdrawn and rewritten. Leslie Aronovitz of the General Accounting Office conceded that the rules would "definitely ... be a challenge" for the industry. However, Janlori Goldman, director of Georgetown University's Health Privacy Project, said that the rules are a "major victory" for consumers, adding that the industry's concerns are "exaggerated." Although the Bush administration placed on hold a "raft of rules" issued by the Clinton administration, the medical privacy regulations could be exempt because they were issued as a directive from Congress, the Journal reports. An HHS spokesperson said that the Bush administration has not decided whether the privacy regulations are covered by the moratorium or whether they should be delayed for other reasons (McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 2/9).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.