Saturday, March 3, 2018

Will you lose privacy protection and rights with your most sensitive data?

The right of consent, which is a cornerstone of our Minnesota Health Records Act, which gives you the ability to manage your most sensitive health data, to keep it private, where it goes, and what it can be used for is about to be taken away.  By whom?
Out of view from the public, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota Business Partnership, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Hospital Association and some legislators are working hard to do just that. To be substituted by what is known as HIPAA, the federal law.
There has been an enormous push of cunning by special interests at the Capitol to lead some policymakers into an unseeing acceptance by business and health lobbyists assertions that HIPAA will increase their constituent's privacy protections and rights.
Telling to you straight, what the proposed legislation SF 2975 and House companion does is opposite, it guts your right of consent to release of your health records and replaces it with Code of Federal Regulations, title 45, part 164, subpart E. 
SF 2975 by Senator Pratt:

Section 1. 

Minnesota Statutes 2016, section 144.293, subdivision 2, is amended to read:

Subd. 2.


Patient consent to release of records.

A provider, or a person who receives a health records from a provider, may not release a patient's health records to a person without:

(1) a signed and dated consent from the patient or the patient's legally authorized representative authorizing the release;

(2) specific authorization in law, which includes Code of Federal Regulations, title 45, part 164, subpart E, for those entities and individuals subject to Code of Federal Regulations, title 45, part 164, subpart E; or

(3) a representation from a provider that holds a signed and dated consent from the patient authorizing the release.

My understanding is that Representative Zerwas will be the House author.
This new language, underlined, (CFR, title 45, part 164, subpart E) gives right of access to your health data to many more players that are known as covered entities and business associates without your consent and specific knowledge.  The proposal allows for more wider dissemination and access of your health data to institutions and government.
You may ask yourself, why does Mr. Neumeister care.  I have been around a long time, since late 70's, through the 2010's at the Minnesota Legislature. Have dealt with special interests at the Legislature, helped policymakers build our strong privacy protection and rights and defend those rights and protections, and will call out organizations such as those I mention in the 2nd paragraph of this post who try to do things that are not right to Minnesotans and done with slight of hand.
I still remember one of the biggest fights of my non-paid career at the Legislature.  I fought over two years to where we as Minnesotans could get access to our medical records and get copies of them. (1986-1987 sessions)  The Minnesota health industry with such notables as the Minnesota Hospital Association and Minnesota Medical Association opposed that simple right.  The same mindset it appears they have today.
Are there fixes that can be made in this area of law?  Yes, but not done in a "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" mentality that pillage the protections and rights we now have in our state law.
HIPAA sets a floor of standards of how health records are to be handled, but allows states to be more protective of your information or provides you with greater rights.  This is what Minnesota law does
Do not expect HIPAA to give you comfortable feeling of reassurance that sensitive medical data is a matter between you and your doctor, you will be deluded.  The federal regulations as proposed in this bill and others that I have seen set standards for privacy and rights where health industry, business, and government interests often prevail over the patients desire for confidentiality.  And this should NOT be.
Contact your legislator!

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