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For Immediate Release:                                                                                    
February 8, 2006                                                                                                     

Congress Could Vote Soon on a Bill that
Abolishes State Health-Privacy Rights

Act Now to Voice Your Own Opinion about H.R. 4157

Washington, D.C.—Congress may vote [soon] on a bill that could seriously weaken or eliminate Americans’ health privacy.  H.R. 4157 is titled the “Health Information Technology Promotion Act of 2005.”  Here is what all citizens—and members of Congress voting on the bill—should know about H.R. 4157:

  • It could seriously weaken or eliminate Americans’ health privacy by granting the HHS Secretary legal authority to (1) preempt state laws ensuring privacy rights and (2) establish a federal standard that does not guarantee the right to consent (to give or withhold one’s consent before one’s personal health information is shared with others).  Thus, if citizens cannot decide who can see their personal health information, they have no true privacy rights.
  • It grants enormous federal power to a single federal employee—the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology—who is appointed by the President of the United States.  The Coordinator oversees the development of the “Nationwide Interoperable Health Information Technology Infrastructure”—a de facto national database for storing and sharing citizens’ electronic medical records.  Also, the Coordinator is granted authority to contract with private medical organizations to assist with developing and utilizing the forthcoming national electronic medical-records system.

H.R. 4157 includes language that sounds like it will offer confidentiality.  Members of Congress and their staff, who have not read the HIPAA federal medical privacy rule in its entirety and haven’t been tracking the issue for years, may not realize that H.R. 4157 could actually strip citizens of their state health-privacy rights/freedom to consent. 

The bottom line is that giving the federal government the power to decide who can see individuals’ personal health information is not true health privacy.  Rather, it’s actually an infringement on individuals’ privacy and liberty! 

Concerned citizens should call their U.S. Representatives as soon as possible and voice their own opinions about H.R. 4157.  The main Capitol Hill switchboard phone number is: (202) 225-3121.

To read the complete bill (H.R. 4157), visit the congressional legislative database and search for the bill number "H.R. 4157".

For information about how the HIPAA federal medical privacy rule eliminates patient consent, and thereby eliminates health privacy, see:

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