MEDICAL PRIVACY: Congress Needs Consensus on Key Issues
Encouraging the House and Senate to find "common ground," when debating medical privacy bills this week, a Los Angeles Times editorial notes that despite apparent agreement regarding Americans' right to access and amend their medical records, as well as monitor their release, passage of the bills is impeded by two snarls: language and states' rights. Neither the "coercive language" proposed by Sen. Bennett (R-UT) that would free providers to deny care for patients who do not waive their privacy rights or Sen. Leahy's (D-VT) wording that would require providers to "seek authorization even for routine transactions" is acceptable, the editorial says. Rather, "compromise language," offered by Reps. Henry Waxman (D) and Gary Condit (D) provides the optimal means of preventing abuses by concealing patients' names and allowing for reasonable use of their records. Citing a California HealthCare Foundation survey that reported one in seven adults misled providers in an effort to avoid discrimination from employers and insurers, the editorial also argues that more stringent medical privacy laws enacted by states should not be preempted by federal legislation. Noting that patients' hesitancy to provide potentially damaging medical information is a "wake-up call to congressional leaders," the editorial calls the issue "not only a moral priority but a medical necessity" (Los Angeles Times 5/10).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.