For Immediate Release:
July 22, 1999
Congress Needs Your Input by August
The debate over medical privacy is heating up on Capitol
Hill. On Tuesday, July 20, the House Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to discuss what
to do about the looming August 21 deadline. (Congress
must pass a medical privacy law by August 21, 1999,
or the Clinton Administration gets to set the rules
for medical confidentiality.)
Chaired by Congressman William Thomas (R-CA), the
Subcommittee invited special interest groups (hospital,
medical school, and insurance representatives), academicians,
and government agencies to advise Congress on how to
balance individuals' privacy concerns with researchers'
need for medical [data].
"True privacy advocates weren't included in the debate,"
says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health
Freedom. "But there are still two weeks left for privacy
advocates to express their own opinions about how they'd
like to see Congress proceed with medical confidentiality
protections." The Subcommittee is accepting public comments
until August 3. [For information about submitting your
comments, see Congressman Thomas' July 13 advisory]
or call the Subcommittee at (202) 225-3943.
Here are several key issues to consider:
If you're concerned about these issues, then submit your
written comments by August 3 or place a phone call by
August 7. The number to the Capitol Hill switchboard is
- Should researchers be required to obtain written
consent before accessing your medical information
(both identifiable and non-identifiable information)?
- Should patients be forced to share personal medical
information with law enforcement officials who are
investigating insurance fraud and abuse cases?
- Should homebound seniors be forced to share personal
information - such as emotional, sexual, and financial
details - with the federal Medicare agency?
For more information about medical privacy, visit
the Institute for Health Freedom's Web site at
Based in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Health
Freedom is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center
providing a forum for exchanging ideas about health
freedom. The Institute works with scholars and policy
experts in the areas of economics, health care, law,
philosophy, and the sciences to foster public debate.