MEDICAL PRIVACY: Little Progress Made in Senate
Two stumbling blocks are holding up a bill to protect the privacy of patients' medical records, CongressDaily reports. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee yesterday held its eighth hearing on the matter, but little progress has been made, as committee members argue over juveniles' rights to privacy and the proper recourse for patients whose privacy is violated. Ranking member Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is pushing to ensure that minors in states allowing juveniles health care without parental consent also will have control over their medical records. Meanwhile, conservative members want a provision that would grant parents access to such information, setting off a "major behind-the-scenes controversy between abortion-rights advocates and antiabortion groups that has "yet to be resolved." In addition, Democrats want more language detailing the "conditions in which a patient can sue," and they are concerned about a provision barring punitive damages. A GAO review of the proposal also suggested that Congress may have to establish uniform regulations that supersede all state laws and clarify its intentions for paper and electronic records. HELP aides say the measure may not move until next year, as Chair James Jeffords (R- Vt.) wants a bipartisan effort and most of the committee's resources are devoted to the managed care conference (Fulton, 4/26).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.