Medical Privacy Issue May Not Resonate with Public
While lawmakers are likely to have a "heated" debate over the Clinton administration's medical privacy rules, the issue may not resonate with the American public, Time reports. According to Robert Belair, a Washington, D.C.-based privacy lawyer, Americans "aren't exactly up in arms over protecting their medical records from prying eyes." Belair added, "That's partly because this issue gets technical in a hurry. But it's also because the public is fairly pessimistic about privacy -- a lot of folks may think their privacy is already gone." Under Clinton's privacy rules, providers would be required to obtain written consent from patients before disclosing information in their medical records. In addition, patients would have the right to review and amend their medical records. While the rules were published in late December, they were not sent to Congress for a "required 60-day review" until Feb. 13. Therefore, the Clinton regulations will not be implemented until April 14, and until then, the public and the health care industry will have a "second chance" to comment on the regulations.
While privacy advocates have "applauded" the rules, providers have "balked" at the requirements, saying that the rules could delay necessary treatment. Noting that the Bush administration was "right" to open the rules to commentary, Belair said, "Health information is very personal, and can be very stigmatizing, and patients are right to be cautious about making it available." However, he added "[T]he health care sector needs to be able to use [medical] information to deliver care and keep costs down. So there are very compelling arguments on both sides" (Reaves, Time, 3/4).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.