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News Release

HHS Calls for Public Comments on Final Medical Privacy Rule

Americans Must Respond by March 30, 2001

(Washington, DC/March 1, 2001)--On February 28, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a call for public comments regarding the final federal medical privacy rule. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2000. Since that time, HHS has received many inquiries about how the rule would affect more than 600,000 health-care providers and institutions, as well as virtually every American.

"Individuals who care about their medical privacy should immediately write to HHS," says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "There are many competing interests battling for HHS' ear on this important topic. Although the informed consent provisions included in the final rule are weak, some groups want to eliminate those consent protections altogether. Citizens should let HHS know how they feel about third parties accessing their medical records without their consent."

Here are some issues to consider regarding the final medical privacy rule:

  • Who should decide which third parties are permitted to see your medical records?
  • Should the federal government's Secretary of Health and Human Services and/or Office for Civil Rights be permitted to access your medical records without your permission?
  • Which third parties, if any, should have access to your medical records without your noncoerced consent? (Banks, law enforcement, researchers, insurers, employers, public health officials, FDA, foreign government officials, marketing companies, or state government agencies.)

To make sure your voice is heard, here are a few suggestions for submitting comments:

  • HHS says you must cite specific sections of the rule when submitting comments (see attached sample letter). If you aren't specific, HHS might not consider your comments.
  • If possible, send your comments via priority mail and/or certified mail. HHS must receive your comments by March 30, 2001 by 5:00 pm.
  • HHS is NOT accepting comments by phone or fax; HHS says it will destroy such submissions.
  • Mail your comments to:
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    Attention: Privacy I
    Room 801
    Hubert H. Humphrey Building
    200 Independence Ave., SW,
    Washington, DC 20201.

  • HHS says all comments should include the following information: full name, address and telephone number of the sender or a knowledgeable point of contact.
  • Here is a sample form letter commenting on important sections of the final medical privacy rule:
  • Although mailing comments is preferred, you can submit your comments at the following Web site:

For more information about the medical privacy rule, visit IHF's Web site: