NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Deadline For Action On Medical Privacy Is Approaching

July 15, 1999

An August 21st deadline is fast approaching for Congress to pass medical privacy legislation -- or regulations governing your medical privacy will be established by the Secretary of Health and Human Services by February 21, 2000.

"If Congress fails to meet its August 21 deadline, the Clinton Administration is ready to move forward with its plan to create a unique health-identifier for every American," says Sue Blevins president of the Institute for Health Freedom (IHF). The number would be used to tag and track each person's medical information electronically.

The deadlines were established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). But so far, legislation that has been introduced would not truly protect Americans' privacy, and "Some of the bills actually make matters worse," says Blevins.

For example,

  • Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.) has proposed legislation that would force individuals to waive their right to privacy as a stipulation for purchasing health insurance.
  • Legislation proposed by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah would give government agencies and biomedical researchers access to patients' records without obtaining their consent.
  • As a result, many Americans could become research subjects without their knowledge, says the IHF.
  • Since mid-May, the Senate committee in charge of marking up a medical privacy bill has rescheduled the markup at least four times, indicating there is little consensus on the issue.

However, the effect of a provision in the massive financial services industry bill (H.R.10) approved by the House would be, according to the Los Angeles Times, that "Individual medical records, including patients' genetic information, could be disclosed by health insurers to credit card companies and other financial institutions."

Source: Press release, "Medical Privacy Alert: Congress Faces August 21 Deadline," July 8, 1999, Institute for Health Freedom, 1155 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20036, (202) 429-6610.


Browse more articles on Health Issues