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For Immediate Release:
February 6, 2001

Senate to Hold "Public" Hearing on Final Medical Privacy Rule

Will True Privacy Advocates' Voices Be Heard?

Washington, D.C.--On Thursday, February 8, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a "public" hearing on the final federal medical privacy rule. It will be Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's first HELP Committee hearing on specific policy issues. Invited witnesses include representatives from government, health insurance and medical industries, and advocates supportive of the former Administration's medical privacy rule (announced on December 20, 2000).

"It is not clear whether the Senate HELP Committee is giving the public adequate time to learn about this important hearing, to draft questions for their Senators to ask of selected witnesses, or to submit their own written testimony for the record," said Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom (IHF).

Blevins stressed, "I don't think the invited witness list represents the American public's views on medical privacy." Her assertion is based on a national Gallup survey commissioned by IHF. The survey found that 78 percent of Americans are very concerned about the confidentiality of their medical records. The survey also found that a majority of Americans oppose allowing third parties--including government agencies--access to their medical records without the patient's consent. "Yet, the final medical privacy rule actually gives the federal government a massive new power to access everyone's medical records--without the patient's consent--in order to monitor the patient's medical privacy," Blevins said. "Under the new rule, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will have unfettered access to every doctor's office and his or her patients' records without a subpoena, in order to `monitor' Americans' privacy. I don't think the public would agree with this massive government power, if they knew about it."

"Most of the special interest groups working with Congress and the federal government on privacy issues actually have a vested interest in securing unfettered access to individuals' personal health records, including their genetic information. Let's hope the Senate HELP Committee will give the American public an equal opportunity and plenty of time to submit their written testimony for the record," said Blevins.

The national Gallup survey on medical privacy can be accessed at the following Web site: www.ForHealthFreedom.org/Gallupsurvey.

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