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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON TAKES STRONG NEW STEPS TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF PERSONAL HEALTH INFORMATION October 29, 1999
President Clinton today will unveil a landmark set of privacy protections for medical information stored or transmitted electronically. This new regulation, which the President is proposing because of Congress's failure to act, underscores the Administration's commitment to safeguarding the security of personal health information. But the President will note that because his regulatory authority is limited, comprehensive federal legislation is urgently needed, and he will urge Congress to enact broader privacy protections without further delay.
The new regulation that President Clinton and HHS Secretary Shalala are announcing today would apply to all health plans and many health care providers, as well as to health care clearinghouses such as billing companies. It would: 1) limit the non-consensual use and release of private health information; 2) inform consumers about their right to access their records and to know who else has accessed them; 3) restrict the disclosure of protected health information to the minimum necessary; 4) establish new disclosure requirements for researchers and others seeking access to health records; and 5) establish new criminal and civil sanctions for the improper use or disclosure of such information.
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WANT THE PRIVACY OF THEIR HEALTH RECORDS TO BE PROTECTED. Today, even amidst a boom in the collection and dissemination of personal data, patients do not have the right under Federal law to see their own health files or to know who is receiving their health information. Nor do they have basic protections to ensure that sensitive information is not inappropriately used or disclosed. Indeed, under the current loose patchwork of state laws, personal health information can be distributed -- without consent -- for reasons that have nothing to do with a patient's medical treatment. Patient information held by an insurer can in many cases be passed on to a lender who may then deny the patient's application for a home mortgage or a credit card, or to an employer who may use it in personnel decisions. Moreover, patients wishing to access or control the release of such information may be subject to the whim of their insurance company or health care provider.
PRESIDENT CLINTON UNVEILS NEW SAFEGUARDS FOR SENSITIVE HEALTH INFORMATION. The new regulation being unveiled today is designed to give consumers more control over their health information; set boundaries on the use and release of health records and ensure their security; establish accountability for inappropriate use and release; and balance public responsibility with privacy protections. This new regulation would:
GIVE CONSUMERS CONTROL OVER THEIR HEALTH INFORMATION
SET BOUNDARIES ON MEDICAL RECORD USE AND RELEASE
ENSURE THE SECURITY OF PERSONAL HEALTH INFORMATION
BALANCE PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY WITH PRIVACY PROTECTIONS
ESTABLISH ACCOUNTABILITY FOR MEDICAL RECORD USE AND RELEASE
NOW CONGRESS MUST ENACT COMPREHENSIVE LEGISLATION. The important new protections President Clinton will unveil today are a critical first step -- a step he is taking because Congress has failed to act in the three-year timeframe it gave itself in 1996. But the President's administrative authority is limited by statute and there remains an urgent need for comprehensive Federal privacy protections. Today's regulation, for instance, does not cover all paper records. It does not directly regulate many entities, including employers, other insurers, or public health agencies -- thus allowing for unlimited reuse of information by such entities. Federal legislation is also needed to fortify the penalties and to create a private right of action so that citizens can hold health plans and providers directly accountable for inappropriate and harmful disclosures of information. That is why President Clinton today will call on Congress to finish the job and enact the comprehensive protections that the American people want and need.