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For Immediate Release:
March 6, 2003
Contacts: Jennifer Berkowitz/
Sue Blevins (202) 429-6610

Americans Need to Become Fully
Informed about the Federal Medical Privacy Rule

(Washington, D.C.)—With the April 14 deadline fast approaching for the Federal Medical Privacy Rule to take effect, Americans need to become fully informed about the Rule and how it affects individuals' control over the flow of their personal health information, said a panel of experts today at the National Press Club.

"Citizens need to become armed with the facts about this historic Rule," said Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "I strongly encourage all citizens—including the media and policymakers—to read this important document themselves. They'll see that under this new Rule, citizens actually lose the precious freedom to give or withhold consent regarding the release of their personal health information to many persons for many purposes."

"What's more, individuals won't be able to find out if their personal health information—including genetic information—has been released to the more than 600,000 'covered entities' that are granted legal access to patients' health information without individuals' consent," Blevins continued. "This means that health insurers, data-processing companies, hospitals, and other organizations will be able to access individuals' health information, but citizens won't know this is happening."

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been claiming that the Rule empowers patients by giving them more control over how their personal health information is used and disclosed, but unfortunately that is not true," said Robin Kaigh, a New York attorney who has been tracking the medical privacy issue for the past seven years and has analyzed the Rule from the patient's perspective. "Instead of empowering patients, the Rule does just the opposite. It gives the federal government and health-care industry the power to decide who should look at patients' medical records."

"So much of what our national leaders are doing now is based on fear rather than knowledge. And in the process we are in danger of sacrificing the individual freedoms our forefathers fought to give us. What we choose to do today will define who we are as a nation for many years to come," added Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center.

Kent Snyder, executive director of The Liberty Committee, stressed that "Americans need to think about the long-term effects of the Rule and its connection to ID numbers." He explained that although Congress has temporarily delayed federal funding for unique health identifiers, the law for such numbers remains on the books. "Mandatory health-care ID numbers combined with the Federal Medical Privacy Rule is a recipe for massive privacy invasions," said Snyder.

The Federal Medical Privacy Rule can be accessed online at:
Institute for Health Freedom

1825 Eye Street, N.W., Suite 400
Washington, DC 20006

Tel: (202) 429-6610
Fax: (202) 861-1973

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