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For Immediate Release:
April 12, 2001

President Bush Orders Final Federal Medical Privacy Rule to Take Effect

Rule to be Revised and Pushed Forward

Washington, D.C.—On April 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it is revising and implementing the federal medical privacy rule initially proposed by the Clinton Administration. HHS received more than 24,000 written comments on the medical privacy rule, including thousands of comments from citizens with a strong concern for privacy.

"President Bush has focused on an important issue that affects nearly each and every American," says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "According to a national Gallup survey sponsored by the Institute for Health Freedom, an overwhelming majority of Americans do not want the government or other third parties to have access to their personal medical information—including genetic information—without their permission," stresses Blevins. (The Gallup survey can be viewed in its entirety at the following Website:

"I am pleased that HHS is planning to modify and clarify the `fuzzy' federal medical privacy rule," says Blevins. She notes that a team of interested citizens and organizations visited HHS to review thousands of comments submitted by the public and found that there is much confusion about the rule. "The medical industry told HHS the rule is too complicated and costly, while concerned citizens say the rule doesn't go far enough to protect patient privacy. In fact, thousands of individuals told HHS that they are concerned about third parties gaining access to their medical records without patient permission," she said.

Blevins stresses that the public would benefit greatly by HHS modifying the following:

  • Make sure that individuals are the ones who get to decide which third parties—if any—are permitted to see their medical records. The current rule permits the following third parties to access individuals' medical records without patient consent: law enforcement, researchers, insurers, public health officials, FDA, marketing companies, and state government agencies.
  • Eliminate the broad federal power permitting the federal government's Secretary of Health and Human Services and/or Office for Civil Rights to access individuals' medical records without patient permission.
"Many concerned citizens and groups want HHS to truly give patients more control over how their personal medical information will be used and disclosed," says Blevins. "This can be accomplished by simplifying and reinforcing the patient consent provision—not eliminating it."

For more information about medical privacy, visit IHF's Web site:

The medical industry told HHS the federal medical privacy rule is too costly, while concerned citizens say the rule doesn't go far enough to protect patient privacy.
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