MEDICAL PRIVACY: Clinton Plan ‘Disappoints Both Sides’
Witnesses from "across the political spectrum" complained yesterday before the House Ways and Means health subcommittee about the Clinton administration's proposed regulations to protect patient's medical records, CongressDaily reports. Privacy advocates hailed some aspects of the proposal and criticized others, while the health industry "lauded those elements that the privacy community opposes and criticized those the privacy community supports." As a result, it appears the administration will have difficulty incorporating the more than 40,000 public comments received as of Wednesday. Margaret Hamburg, HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, said, "Unfortunately, this leaves many entitles that receive, use and disclose protected health information outside of the system of protection that we proposed to create." Hamburg noted that the rules limit electronic records, rather than those on paper, and she said the remedies -- which do not include the ability of patients to sue if their information is disclose without consent, "are inadequate." The American Medical Association argued against a provision requiring compliance of business partners of covered entities -- who would have to sign contracts promising to abide by the confidentiality restrictions. The AMA maintains that a physician group "could be subject to the full weight of enforcement and sanctions under the regulation for prohibited activity by its business partners, even if the group had no knowledge or control over the practices of its business partner." Privacy advocate Janlori Goldman of the Georgetown University Health Privacy Project, said, "Under the proposed rules, people have no ability to control or even monitor the use and disclosure of protected health information for purposes of treatment, payment and health care operations." Although the administration promised a final version of the rule by the end of the year, advocates expect to see the final rule by early summer (Rovner, 2/17).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.