Thursday, April 12, 2001
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration announced today that the president has decided not to delay the implementation of medical privacy rules scheduled to go into effect on April 14.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, strongly supports the rules, which are designed to protect the confidentiality of personal medical records. The rules require physicians to get the consent of patients before disclosing their medical data. They also say patients have the right to know who has seen their medical records, as well as the right to see and correct their records themselves.
“We are very pleased that the president has decided against postponing these rules,” said Frank Torres, Legislative Counsel for Consumers Union. “Your medical information shouldn’t be given out for non-medical reasons without your permission.”
The rules were proposed last year by then-President Bill Clinton. After Bush took office, lobbyists for healthcare companies and marketers urged the president to postpone the rules, claiming they would be too costly and complicated. Health Human and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson decided to re-open the rules for consideration before they took effect, and suggested that a delay was inevitable.
Today, Thompson lauded the president’s decision as a “bold and definitive step,” but he stressed that his department “will consider any necessary modifications that will ensure the quality of care does not suffer inadvertently from this rule.”
CU’s Torres said the rules should not be watered down. “The President has set a fairly high watermark for privacy standards by demanding that the rules be implemented without changes or further delays. If the rules are later weakened to the point that patients are denied these basic protections, the rules will be practically worthless, and the administration will have shown that it thinks a company’s ability to exploit your personal information is more important than your privacy.
“Much of the criticism against these rules is nothing more than scare tactics concocted by businesses that make money from data sharing,” Torres added. “These rules will not restrict the sharing of patient information for treatment purposes. People will still be able to pick up prescriptions for family members, and doctors will still be able to talk to patients, nurses, and each other.”
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer. We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services, personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers