MEDICAL PRIVACY: Congress Likely to Miss Deadline
It appears unlikely that Congress will meet the Aug. 21 deadline for passing medical privacy legislation, since legislators are scheduled to begin the summer recess at the end of the week Congress Daily/A.M. reports. Despite efforts by both the House and Senate to produce medical records privacy legislation, "consensus between privacy advocates and health industry representatives has proved elusive." According to the 1996 Health Care Portability and Accountability Act, if Congress does not act on the privacy matter by the deadline, HHS will be authorized to issue medical privacy regulations no later than Feb. 21, 2000. Rep. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) has been working with House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chair Bill Thomas (R-CA) on a confidentiality measure that could appear as early as this week, but Cardin said, "No one's concerned about the August date, it's the February date that people are worried about." HHS officials have expressed concern about the scope of the regulations since they would only apply to electronic records, while legislation would encompass paper records as well. However, they say that they will "be ready in the fall" with the strongest regulations possible. Many parties involved believe that imposing regulations so soon after the start of the millennium may pose greater computer problems for the health care industry. The Clinton administration has been actively involved in the debate, and "worked hard" to get the House to drop medical privacy legislation proposed by Rep. Greg Ganske (R-IA) attached to last week's financial services modernization bill. According to privacy advocates, that legislation would have made medical records more accessible. Cardin added that the "language was poorly drafted and not what it was advertised to be" (Rovner/Morrissey, Congress Daily/A.M., 8/4).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.