Health Information Technology Legislation Stalled By Privacy Concerns
Legislation that would promote the adoption and standardization of health information technology is "knotted up" in Congress over privacy issues, CQ Today reports (Wayne, CQ Today, 6/2). The bill (S 1693) would help providers purchase health IT systems and require the federal government to decide on software and hardware standards for its own programs, such as Medicare, in part to encourage the private sector to standardize operations.
However, "privacy concerns have loomed over the health IT initiative since early efforts" in 2005, according to CQ Today. Consumer privacy advocates have expressed concerns that electronic health records would be easier to steal or disclose accidentally and that employers could use the information to discriminate against potential employees with certain health conditions. To address these concerns, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in May added an amendment intended to increase consumer privacy. The amendment would grant patients access to the EHRs, require that providers disclose breaches of privacy and extend restrictions on firms' use of individual health data for marketing purposes. One week later, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) "asked Kennedy and Enzi to go further" and set deadlines for breach-of-privacy notifications, according to CQ Today.
However, privacy advocates continue to oppose the bill and request that it grant patients better control over their records, including prescription information already sold to data-mining companies without the consent of customers. Pharmacies say no "personally identifiable" prescription information is included, according to CQ Today. Officials from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores said that the rules would prevent pharmacies from contacting patients without prior approval.
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on Wednesday will hold a hearing to discuss a health IT bill drafted by Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) and ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas). The bill is similar to the Senate bill but includes "even stronger privacy protections," according to CQ Today (CQ Today, 6/2).
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