MEDICAL PRIVACY: State Senate Measure Would Fine HMOs up to $250K
A patient records privacy measure carrying fines of up to $250,000 for health plans that share confidential information without patient approval won "lopsided approval" (34-3) in the state Senate yesterday. With numerous reports of "breaches in doctor-patient confidentiality by managed health care organizations," state Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Daly City), chair of the Insurance Committee, said that patient information is already "shared nationwide in a databank that will boggle your mind." SB 19 would represent a significant increase over the current statute, which caps damages at $3,000, and would "prohibit a health care plan from requiring an applicant to waive his or her patient confidentiality rights as a condition of receiving health coverage." The California Healthcare Association and state Sen. Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside) argued that the $250,000 penalty was too steep," with the CHA calling for a $10,000 per violation fine. State Sen. Steve Peace (D-El Cajon), who said an episode in which his wife's records were improperly disclosed left his family's "sense of confidence, sense of identity and sense of control ... permanently destroyed," countered that only a hefty fine would suffice. "There is no other way to get the attention of this industry," he said. The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), now goes to the state Assembly. The Los Angeles Times reports that the lower house "has approved similar bills in the past, only to have them die in a conference committee or be vetoed" (Ingram, 5/25).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.