August 12, 2002
But Government and Corporations Gain
Control over Personal Health & Genetic Information
Washington, D.C.On August 9, 2002, the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced
it has revised the federal medical privacy rule initially
proposed by the Clinton Administration. HHS's "Fact
Sheet" admits that the revised rule eliminates
the requirement that doctors must get patients' consent
before releasing patients' personal health informationincluding
genetic informationfor treatment, payment or health
care operations (a broad definition encompassing many
Rather than allowing individuals to
decide who can see their medical records, HHS is granting
federal regulatory authority for data-processing companies,
insurers, some researchers, government officials and
others to access individuals' personal health information
without individuals' permission.
Additionally, when the rule takes effect in April
2003, individuals' personal health information can be
transferred electronically over the Internet without
patients' consent. But most Americans won't know this
is happening because under the federal medical privacy
rule, citizens will not get an accounting
of disclosures for routine uses of their personal health
information (for which the number of routine uses is
"HHS's Fact Sheet about the federal medical privacy
rule is very misleading," says Sue Blevins, president
of the Institute for Health Freedom. "That's because
while claiming to be committed to 'maintaining protections
for the privacy of individually identifiable health
information,' HHS's privacy rule does not prevent
government or the medical industry from compiling and
sharing individuals' personal health informationincluding
genetic informationwithout individuals' permission.
How can HHS say patients' privacy is being enhanced
when, in fact, HHS is actually granting legal access
to patients' records without their consent?" She adds,
"If Enron or WorldCom executives had distorted the
truth the way HHS officials have about the federal medical
privacy rule, they would probably be charged with false
"For the first time in our nation's history, the federal
government has taken the patient out of the driver's
seat and given the medical industry full access to individuals'
personal health information without individuals' permission,"
For information about health privacy issues visit
|Bush administration grants data-processing
companies and other health care industries new federal
regulatory authority to collect and share individuals'
personal health information including genetic
information without individuals' consent.