MEDICAL PRIVACY: HELP Set to Vote, but Dems Not on Board
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to vote on a medical records privacy measure today, but a continuing division over patients' right to sue if their privacy is violated virtually ensures that a bipartisan agreement will not be reached. In a case of deja vu evoking Republicans and Democrats' disagreement on the right to sue in managed care reform legislation, HELP Committee Chair Jim Jeffords (R-VT) -- whose committee passed HMO legislation along party lines -- is again faced with passing a bill over the objections of Democratic committee members, and he has twice postponed the committee vote. The AP/Boston Globe reports that there were even "rumors yesterday that it might be postponed again" over the right to sue and another controversial measure that governs the privacy rights of minors, which has become entangled in the abortion debate. After including conciliatory right-to-sue language to appease Democrats, Jeffords saw a backlash by conservative members, and the bill now carries a $50,000 cap on pain and suffering damages, and requires that plaintiffs prove intent. But the middle road doesn't appear to have many takers among Democrats. A spokesperson for HELP ranking member Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said, "Democrats will not support the bill as written" (Meckler, 6/15).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.