March 7, 2001
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Secretary Tommy G. Thompson
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Attention: Privacy I
Hubert H. Humphrey Building
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
We write to you as a nonpartisan coalition of organizations from across the country to urge you to implement the Medical Privacy Regulations as soon as possible. Today there are no comprehensive federal rules to protect the confidentiality of medical record information. The HIPAA regulations provide a baseline of significant privacy protection for medical records.
There is widespread public concern about the privacy of medical record information. A failure to establish strong safeguards has caused serious harm to the provision of health care in our society. Patients who feared that their condition would be disclosed to others were more likely to withhold facts about their health from doctors. Doctors who were aware of privacy risks were less likely to record patient information in files. Disclosure of medical information outside the doctor-patient relationship has also had a stigmatizing effect on individuals. Individuals diagnosed with certain conditions, or even a mere predisposition to disease, have had difficulty securing insurance and obtaining employment opportunities.
We support efforts to further strengthen the HIPAA regulations. For example, there should be limitations on the use of patients' data for marketing purposes. Law enforcement should be required to obtain a warrant before it may obtain access to patients' data. And medical providers should not be able to deny medical care if a patient refuses to give consent for disclosure. But we believe these issues can be addressed as implementation of HIPAA goes forward.
We believe there is widespread public support for strong medical privacy protection and we would be deeply disappointed if the Administration attempted to weaken or postpone implementation of the HIPAA rules.
American Association of Law Libraries
American Civil Liberties Union
Consumer Federation of America
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Free Congress Foundation
International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and
Agricultural Implement Workers of America
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
U.S. Public Interest Research Group