Kennedy Criticizes Bush Administration’s Proposed Changes to Federal Medical Privacy Regulations
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on Friday criticized the Bush administration's proposed changes to federal medical privacy regulations, calling the decision to eliminate a requirement that patients give written consent before their medical records are disclosed an "infringement" on privacy rights and a "surrender to major corporate interests," the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 3/23). "The administration has come down on the side of corporations at the expense of patients," Kennedy said in a speech on the Senate floor, adding, "This is a decision by the administration to effectively recommend that we wipe away the most important protections individuals have" (Fulton, CongressDaily, 3/22). Under the changes proposed by HHS to the privacy rules, which were originally issued during the Clinton administration and are scheduled to take full effect in April 2003, providers, insurers and pharmacies would not have to obtain written consent from patients before disclosing their medical records. Instead, they would have to make a "good-faith effort" to obtain written acknowledgement from patients that they had been informed of their privacy rights (California Healthline, 3/22). Kennedy, chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said he would hold hearings and offer legislation to restore the consent requirement (AP/Washington Times, 3/23). The administration and health care organizations, however, defended the proposed changes, saying the consent requirement would have led to "lengthy delays of care delivery." Many health care groups are also seeking further revisions of the rules, hoping to push back the implementation date, lessen the regulations' complexity and reduce possible conflicts with state laws. "We urge the administration to continue to work toward establishing uniformity so that confusion and inconsistency between the federal rule and the individual laws of 50 states do not complicate the ability to provide quality health care," American Association of Health Plans President Karen Ignagni said (CongressDaily, 3/22).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.