MEDICAL PRIVACY: Another Look At House GOP’s HMO Bill
The House GOP patients' rights bill contains controversial medical privacy provisions that "would overturn stronger state protections," Saturday's New York Times reported. While the proposal "would require doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to provide notice of their confidentiality practices to patients, it would not require patient consent for the release of records." The Republican bill bans "the sale of confidential medical information," but it does not ban "the release of patient records for 'health care operations,' a term critics say is so broad that it could apply to anything, including ... the transfer of patient information to companies marketing new drugs" (Stolberg, 8/1). The Times report about the House GOP bill's privacy provisions comes despite reports last week that Republicans had dropped a provision that would have permitted the sale of patients' medical records.
Editorials On Medical IDs
Several weekend editorials weighed in on government plans to assign a medical ID number to every American:
- Augusta Chronicle: "In a perfect world it makes sense to assign every American a health identification number to store individual medical records in a national database. ... But we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where such easily accessible health data could be terribly abused -- by insurers, employers, researchers, government, even blackmailers. ... If government can't guarantee sensitive medical data will be kept only in the proper hands, then Congress should repeal the ill-considered 'identifier' mandate" (8/1).
- Boston Globe: "Implementation of a national identifier system, a potential life-saver in medical emergencies, is risky without a strong federal law to protect privacy. Congress needs to approve one as a separate bill after a full public hearing" (8/2).
- Hartford Courant: Noting that privacy concerns must be addressed, a Courant editorial touts "the benefits of a health identifier system": "A national registry, properly monitored, might do a better job of guarding privacy than the non-system that exists today. For the first time, it would delineate who could have access and under what circumstances and what consequences face the illegal invaders of privacy. Overall, the pluses of setting up a health identifier system outweigh the minuses" (8/2).