MEDICAL PRIVACY: Privacy Advocates Fear Looming Deadline
As the Aug. 21 deadline for Congress to hash out a medical privacy bill fast approaches and congressional efforts falter, privacy advocates are becoming increasingly concerned, the Chicago Tribune reports. Rep. Greg Ganske's (R-IA) medical confidentiality measure has come under fire for wording that privacy experts contend could pave the way for broad dissemination of private medical information without a patient's permission. Although Ganske countered that the measure would only allow the disclosure of patient data for billing purposes, critics say the "many loopholes ... would give companies a nearly free hand in how they used Americans' intimate medical information." The Health Privacy Project's Janlori Goldman said that patients' information could be shared with credit companies or "if a drug company became an affiliate or subsidiary of an insurer, there would be no limits on how the drug firm could use individual medical information it obtained from the insurer." The health care industry is also taking issue with the bill, which should be an indication that such legislation is needed, said Ganske spokesperson Barbara Levering. "They'd just as soon have nothing," she said. At the same time, the industry would rather the issue go through Congress rather than head to the HHS, which will have the authority to issue privacy regulations if Congress does not act. Although the HHS could only regulate electronic records and not issue comprehensive rules, the industry nonetheless would like to see the issue remain in Congress, where it wields more clout. "We want federal legislation that's going to create federal rules on this, federal guidelines and prohibitions on disclosure for the kinds of things the privacy folks are worried about," said Alan Mertz, acting president of the Healthcare Leadership Council (James, 7/17).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.