LAT Calls For Balanced Approach to Medical Privacy
A Los Angeles Times editorial applauds Congress for its consideration of several bills to strengthen Internet privacy, but states that any action taken on privacy --including HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson's consideration of the Clinton administration's medical privacy rules -- should "strike a ... balance" between protecting individual privacy and preserving necessary data sharing. The editorial states that enacting federal regulations -- such as a measure proposed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) to require Web sites to let consumers "opt out" of sharing their personal information --would both provide a check on the "current anarchy" in which banks, health insurers and Web Site owners exchange information "without any oversight whatsoever" and would "hea[d] off a raft of conflicting state laws that could stifle Internet commerce."
With respect to medical privacy, the editorial suggests that Thompson take a measured approach to any possible alteration of the Clinton rules. While the secretary could delay implementation of a "contentious" rule requiring doctors "to get written permission from patients before sharing information on routine matters," he "should certainly retain a requirement for patient permission before more sensitive transfers, such as between a doctor and an employer." Finally, the editorial calls for Thompson to allow consumers "to see and correct their medical records," a policy that "should have long ago been their basic right" (Los Angeles Times, 3/8).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.