Database Plan Needs to Extend HIPPA

A Congressional health subcommittee heard testimony on plans to develop a new medical information database in the United States, and experts said a new federal privacy law would be needed to expand HIPPA to cover the database, according to a story by UPI.

HIPPA covers breaches of health privacy by health plans and providers, but doesn’t say anything about other people who might access medical information such as medical transcribers hired by doctors or even hackers.

A new federal law would have to make sharing medical information a crime for anyone with access to that information. Experts urged that passing of a law to cover the database before that system is put in place, instead of trying to write a law to fit the new technology once it is already in place.

Right now there is a patchwork of state laws covering the privacy of medical records in addition to HIPPA. About 17,000 claims have been filed under HIPPA, but action has only been taken against one company.

Privacy advocates warn that a law that does not give patients the right of consent to say who can and cannot access their records will quickly erode the patients’ right to privacy. The right of consent was removed from HIPPA in 2002.

H.R. 4157 in Congress would establish a nationwide health infrastructure. It is much more complicated than the current system for tracking patient records and, as such, Blue Cross and Blue Shield has said the timetable for implementing the system as outlined in the bill is too ambitious.

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