For Immediate Release:
April 2, 2002
Public Input on
Final Medical Privacy Rule
Respond by April 26, 2002
(Washington, D.C.)On March 27, 2002, the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced
a call for public comments regarding its plans to revise
the federal medical privacy rule. The final federal
medical privacy rule was promulgated by the Clinton
Administration and published in the Federal Register
on December 28, 2000. Since that time, HHS and the federal
National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS)
have been consulting with health care industry leaders
to modify Americans' rights to medical privacy. In particular,
they want to eliminate the current standard whereby
patients give their written consent before their personal
health informationincluding genetic informationis
shared with others.
"Citizens who are concerned about their rights to
medical privacy should let HHS know how they feel about
this important and timely issue," says Sue Blevins,
president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "In a
few years, patients' personally identifiable health
information is going to be flowing over the Internet.
But patients won't even know this is happening because
they won't be able to obtain an accounting of when and
to whom their health information was disclosed for most
of their health care services. Americans should let
HHS know how they feel about this issue."
Here are some questions to consider regarding the
final medical privacy rule:
To make sure your voice is heard, here are important suggestions
for submitting comments:
- Should health insurers, doctors, and medical data-processing
companies have to get your written, informed consent
before sharing your personal health information-including
genetic information-with others?
- 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
- Which third parties, if any, should have access
to your personal health information-including genetic
information-without your written, informed consent?
(Consider the following: Banks, law enforcement, researchers,
insurance companies, employers, public health officials,
FDA, and the Secretary of HHS.)
- When submitting your comments, HHS says you must
cite specific sections of the rule and then give specific
comments (see the following sample). If you don't
cite specific sections of the rule, HHS might not
consider your comments.
- Given the recent slowed mail system, if possible
you should send your comments by certified mail. Your
comments must be postmarked by April 26, 2002.
- Do NOT send a fax or call HHS. Unfortunately, HHS
says it is not accepting comments by fax or phone.
In fact, HHS says it will destroy such submissions.
- For information, contact Felicia Farmer at HHS at
- Mail your comments to: U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights,
Attention: Privacy 2, Hubert H. Humphrey Building,
Room 425A, 200 Independence Ave., SW, Washington,
- HHS says all comments should include the
following information: full name, address and telephone
number of the sender or a knowledgeable point of contact.
- Although mailing comments is preferred, you can
submit your comments at the following Website: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/
- Following is a valid sample response citing specific
sections of the final federal medical privacy rule.
SAMPLE COMMENT LETTER
123 Main Street
Freedom City, VA 00000
April 16, 2002
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office for Civil Rights
Attention: Privacy 2
Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 425A
200 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Thompson:
I am writing to share my comments regarding your
plans (as announced March 27, 2002) to modify the
federal medical privacy rule (Standards for Privacy
of Individually Identifiable Health Information).
Following are my specific comments on specific sections
of the rule:
Sections 164.502 and 164.506: I want to be the one
who decides whether and which health insurers, doctors,
and medical data-processing companies can have access
to my personal health information-including my genetic
information-for all purposes, including treatment,
payment and health care operations. The Department
of Health and Human Services should not be making
this decision for me.
Additionally, I want to maintain the right to enter
into private agreements with doctors and other health
care providers to maintain the confidentiality of
personal health information. These sections of the
rule need to make it clear that the federal medical
privacy rule will not interfere with my right to contract.
Section 164.512: I strongly object to third parties
having access to my personal health information-including
genetic information-without my written, informed consent.