For Immediate Release: June 8, 1999
Are We Headed For
A Medical Privacy Invasion?
August 21 Deadline;
Washington, D.C. -- Congress has just ten weeks
to pass legislation to protect medical privacy. If not,
a "solution" will be imposed through regulations by
the Department of Health and Human Services.
Mark-Up Begins June 15
At a discussion on medical privacy issues-sponsored
by the Institute for Health Freedom (IHF)-panelists
Sue Blevins, IHF; Twila Brase, Citizens' Council
on Health Care; and Barbara Loe Fisher, National
Vaccine Information Center unanimously agreed it
was time for Congress to take decisive action. Congress
begins to mark-up medical privacy bills on June 15.
According to IHF President Sue Blevins, "If Congress
doesn't act, it will be acted upon [by the Department
of Health and Human Services]."
Blevins noted that medical privacy is going to be
one of the most important issues of the 106th Congress
because, in 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which mandates
passage of a medical privacy law no later than August
21 of this year. If Congress does not act by this deadline,
the Secretary of Health and Human Services must promulgate
regulations governing the privacy of medical records
within six months.
"A growing number of Americans feel they are losing
control over their medical privacy. That loss is real,"
stated Blevins. "Hundreds of individuals and organizations
have access to a person's medical records."
A recent Congressional Research Service study reported
that, according to a 1996 estimate, as many as 400 people
may see a patient's medical record during the course
of a hospital stay.
Blevins recommends that Congress change the federal
tax law for health insurance to better protect medical
privacy. That way, if a worker does not want to give
his employer carte blanche access to his medical records,
he can buy health insurance on his own without paying
"Employers don't choose and sign contracts for their
workers' automobile, personal property, and fire insurance,
but they do choose their workers' health insurance,"
said Blevins. "Employers don't read their workers' home
and automobile repair records, but do review their workers'
health insurance claims. After all, he who pays the
piper calls the tune."
Based in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Health
Freedom is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center
providing a forum for exchanging ideas about health
freedom. The Institute works with scholars and policy
experts in the areas of economics, health care, law,
philosophy, and the sciences to foster public debate.