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Congressman Paul Introduces Legislation to Repeal Federal Medical Privacy Rule

May 1, 2001

On March 15, 2001 Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced House Joint Resolution (H.J. Res.) 38 to cancel implementation of the federal medical privacy rule. The resolution reads: "Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services on December 28, 2000 (volume 65, number 250, page 82462 of the Federal Register), relating to standards for privacy of individually identifiable health information, and such rule shall have no force or effect."

False Advertising?

In announcing his resolution, Paul said, "Many things in Washington are misnamed; however, this regulation may be the most blatant case of false advertising I have come across in all my years in Congress. Rather than protect an individual right to medical privacy, these regulations empower government officials to determine how much medical privacy an individual `needs.'" He continued, "This `one-size-fits-all' approach ignores the fact that different people may prefer different levels of privacy. Certain individuals may be willing to exchange a great deal of their personal medical information in order to obtain certain benefits, such as lower-priced care or having information targeted to their medical needs sent to them in a timely manner. Others may forgo those benefits in order to limit the number of people who have access to their medical history. Federal bureaucrats cannot possibly know, much less meet, the optimal level of privacy for each individual."

Violation of Fourth Amendment

Paul also stressed that the so-called medical privacy regulations actually threaten constitutionally protected liberties. "For example, these regulations allow law enforcement and other government officials access to a citizen's private medical record without having to obtain a search warrant," he said. "Allowing government officials to access a private person's medical records without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects American citizens from warrantless searches by government officials. The requirement that law enforcement officials obtain a warrant from a judge before searching private documents is one of the fundamental protections against abuse of the government's power to seize an individual's private documents." Since House Joint Resolution 38 was filed under the Congressional Review Act, Congress has until June 15, 2001 to repeal the federal medical privacy rule.
Click here to read the federal medical privacy rule published in the Federal Register on December 28, 2000. This federal rule took effect April 14, 2001; health-care institutions and providers have several years to come into compliance with the rule.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2001 issue of Health Freedom Watch.

"Allowing government officials to access a private person's medical records without a warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution..."