|For Immediate Release
July 8, 1999
Contact: Sue Blevins
Alert: Congress Faces August 21 Deadline
The U.S. Congress has only until August 21, 1999 to
pass a medical privacy law, or regulations governing
your medical privacy will be established by the Secretary
of Health and Human Services by February 21, 2000. These
deadlines, established by the Health Insurance Portability
and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), are fast upon
Several bills have been introduced, but none of the
bills truly protect Americans' medical privacy. "Some
of the bills actually make matters worse," says Sue
Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom.
- Last Thursday, Representative Greg Ganske (R-IA)
slipped a provision into the massive
financial services industry bill (H.R.10) that
was approved by the House. The result of this provision,
according to the Los Angeles Times, is that "Individual
medical records, including patients' genetic information,
could be disclosed by health insurers to credit card
companies and other financial institutions."
- Senator James
Jeffords (R-VT) has proposed legislation that
would force individuals to waive their right to privacy
as a stipulation for purchasing health insurance.
Legislation proposed by Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT)
would give government agencies and biomedical
researchers access to patients' records without obtaining
their consent. As a result, many Americans could become
research subjects without their knowledge.
It appears there is little consensus regarding the
leading medical privacy bills in the Senate. Since mid-May,
the Senate committee in charge of marking up a medical
privacy bill has rescheduled the markup at least four
"If Congress fails to meet its August 21 deadline,
the Clinton Administration is ready to move forward
with its plan to create a unique health-identifier for
every American," says Blevins. The number would be used
to tag and track each person's medical information electronically.
"The way we address this issue will have an enormous
impact on the future of privacy and liberty," states
For more information about medical privacy and the
August 21 deadline, visit the Institute for Health Freedom's
Web site at
Based in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Health
Freedom is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center
providing a forum for exchanging ideas about health
freedom. The Institute works with scholars and policy
experts in the areas of economics, health care, law,
philosophy, and the sciences to foster public debate.
"Individual medical records, including patients'
genetic information, could be disclosed by health
insurers to credit card companies and other financial