Both House and Senate Versions of the Economic Stimulus
Fail to Ensure Patient Consent for Health Privacy
(Washington, DC/Feb. 11, 2009) -- The Institute for Health Freedom (IHF) warns that both the House and Senate versions of the economic stimulus bill fail to ensure patient consent for health privacy.
“Currently, over 600,000 ‘covered entities’ -- such as insurance and data clearinghouse companies -- are legally authorized (without patient consent) to access patients' health records,” says Sue Blevins, IHF president. “Digitizing Americans’ health records will make it much, much easier to share individuals’ personal health information with these many entities. And neither the House nor Senate version of the economic stimulus bill stops this. In fact, both versions of the bill will make it easier for this data to flow without consent.”
Some groups support moving forward with digitizing health records and creating a national health information network without patient authorization. But IHF urges Congress to consider the costs of the lack of patient consent: more patients will withhold private information as they lose trust in the confidential doctor-patient relationship.
“Congress’s opportunity to ensure patient consent has failed. All the provisions about being notified of breaches and the ability to get civil monetary penalty money and audit trails is a distraction from true privacy rights,” Blevins stresses. “People should have privacy protections through consent -- not have to spend time and money monitoring disclosures, and then notifying the government and attorneys about breaches.”
Congress will soon vote on the final compromise version of the economic stimulus bill. Americans are encouraged to voice their own opinions about moving forward with digitizing their health records without patient consent.
The main Capitol Hill switchboard number is (202) 224-3121.
The Institute for Health Freedom (IHF) is a national nonprofit, educational organization whose mission is to bring the issues of personal health freedom to the forefront of the American health-policy debate. IHF monitors and reports on national policies that affect citizens' freedom to choose their health-care treatments and providers, and to maintain their health privacy—including genetic privacy.