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News Release
For Immediate Release: April 14, 2003

Federal Medical Privacy Rule and Tying Games

Washington, D.C.—The federal medical privacy rule takes effect today (April 14, 2003) for many organizations. After reading the new rule closely from the patient's perspective, there is no doubt about it: the new rule eliminates patient consent and gives the federal government access to each and every citizen's personal medical records—without patients' permission.

So why are some recent news stories saying the rule enhances patients' health privacy?

Some industry and consumer groups that support federalizing health care and privacy are misleading the public by claiming that eliminating patient consent is no big deal. But one has to wonder:

  • How does doing away with patient consent INCREASE individuals' health privacy?

  • How does giving more than 600,000 doctors, health insurers, and data-processing companies legal authority to share patients' personal health information (without patients' consent) INCREASE health privacy?

  • How does forcing all doctors—and other health-care providers—to share citizens' personal medical records with the federal government (without patients' consent) INCREASE patients' health privacy?

  • How does leaving citizens with no other recourse (under the new rule) EXCEPT to file complaints with the federal government and/or guilty parties who breached your privacy (and therefore force citizens to share very personal information with the federal government and/or guilty parties) INCREASE patients' health privacy?

It doesn't. In fact, all of the above REDUCES patients' health privacy.

Also, what does getting a copy of one's own medical records have to do with medical privacy? Obtaining a copy of one's medical records is a totally separate issue from confidentiality and should NOT be grouped together with privacy issues. This is a typical "tying" technique whereby policymakers tie a good policy to a bad one, so that people are forced to accept the bad one in order to get the good one. Economics professor and Cato Institute adjunct scholar Charlotte Twight explains clearly how the "tying" game works in politics.

Fortunately, groups truly dedicated to supporting patients' control over their personal health data—such as Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC)—are providing honest information about how the rule affects ordinary citizens.

Following are useful links to help you better understand how the federal medical privacy rule affects your health privacy.

April 14 Federal Medical Privacy Rule is About Sharing Data (link to CCHC article)

What Every American Needs to Know about Medical Privacy (a brochure)

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