MEDICAL PRIVACY: Reps. Tell Shalala to Hold Off
A group of Republican House members have sent a letter to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala requesting that the department "refrain from proposing any new" medical privacy standards, as they intend to take action on the matter in Congress this fall. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 established that Congress must pass patient confidentiality standards by this month, or HHS will assume responsibility for developing regulations. Reps. James Greenwood (R-PA), Charles Norwood (R-GA), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Christopher Shays (R-CT), however, wrote Shalala: "Your office has testified on several occasions, and you have publicly stated, that you prefer the Congress to pass comprehensive patient confidentiality legislation, rather than to move forward with regulations relying on the narrow authority granted to you under HIPAA. We agree that a more comprehensive solution to the issues raised in the context of the overall debate on patient confidentiality is needed, and that moving forward with regulations is less than desirable." The members go on to declare their "strong intent" to enact standards in Congress, and ask the secretary to work with them "to achieve an appropriate legislative solution" (House release, 8/20).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.