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News Release
December 22,  2000

HHS Releases Its "Spin" on Medical Privacy Rule

Final Rule to be Published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2000

(Washington, D.C.) -- On December 20, when most Americans are busy preparing for the holidays, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its "spin" on the final federal rule regarding medical privacy. "Government officials and advocacy groups supportive of the Clinton Administration's health agenda are informing the media that the newly released final rule will offer Americans greater privacy protection," says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "However, according to HHS, the final rule won't be published in the Federal Register until Thursday, December 28, 2000."

"HHS used this same approach last year," Blevins said. "When the proposed medical privacy regulations were initially announced on October 29, 1999, the federal government put out a press release claiming the proposed federal medical privacy regulations would improve privacy when, in fact, they actually prohibited doctors from obtaining patients' consent before releasing personal medical information for many purposes." This major discrepancy was discovered by carefully comparing HHS' statement with the actual proposed regulations (149 pages of small print) that appeared in the Federal Register on November 3, 1999.

More than 52,000 individuals and organizations submitted comments to HHS regarding the proposed medical privacy regulations. The public comment period ended on February 17, 2000. By law, HHS should take that feedback into consideration when finalizing the regulations. Blevins says she and others are going to read every page of the final medical privacy rule once it is officially printed in the Federal Register to see if HHS listened to the people.

While a preliminary 1,535-page version of the rule is available online, Blevins says "We're going to wait and review the official Federal Register version so we can clearly reference pages and refer consumers, the media, and policy makers to specific pages so they can verify facts for themselves. This final national rule deserves serious analysis and responsible, independent investigation by as many people and organizations as possible."

"The American people have said loud and clear that they want true medical privacy," Blevins said. "We look forward to thoroughly reviewing the final national medical privacy rule as soon as it is officially published next week."

[Update: The federal medical privacy rule is now available online.]