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Americans Respond to Medical Privacy Regulations

Over 52,000 Comments Submitted to HHS

Congratulations freedom advocates! Thanks to the efforts of citizens all across the country, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received over 52,000 comments about the proposed federal regulations on medical privacy. Busy Americans took the time to tell the federal government how much they care about medical privacy and that they don't want Big Brother intruding into their private medical records.

The response of over 52,000 comments is impressive given that major newspapers and television networks haven't covered the issue widely. The little reporting that was done did not adequately explain that the regulations would give many people new unfettered access to individuals' medical information-without their consent. Instead of reviewing hundreds of pages of proposed federal regulations, journalists and television producers typically rely on press releases from the White House and Congress. However, on the issue of medical privacy many of those releases have been misleading, to say the least.

User-Friendly Web Site Played Big Role

The Liberty Study Committee deserves praise for creating an easy-to-use Web site that permitted individuals to send comments to HHS and Congress ( Some 12,000 people used that site.

The fact that comments were received from coast to coast shows that medical privacy is an issue that transcends Washington. Americans from all walks of life are deeply concerned about the potential loss of medical privacy.

Additionally, many Americans are beginning to realize that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) laid the groundwork for assigning everyone a Unique Health Identifier, an ID number. Although the public won't see HIPAA's final effects for another year or so, the truth about the law is being revealed slowly but surely.

What Happens Next with Medical Privacy?

Now that the public comment period is over (it ended February 17), we'll have to watch carefully to see what HHS, the White House, and Congress do. Will they listen to concerned citizens?

Will they make sure the proposed federal regulations are modified so that patient consent must be obtained before personal medical information is shared for any purpose? Or will they ignore the will of the people and instead serve the interests of those who want people's medical data, namely, researchers and government data collectors?

IHF is going to be watching this issue carefully. In the meantime, we welcome your comments and ideas for protecting everyone's medical privacy. [You can share your comments with IHF at]

This article was originally published in the March/April 2000 issue of Health Freedom Watch.