By Adrianson, Alex
Consumers' Research Magazine , Vol. 84, No. 3
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson has announced that the implementation of new medical privacy rules issued by the Clinton Administration will be delayed until April 14. Secretary Thompson says the delay was caused by an oversight of the Clinton Administration, which did not submit the rules to Congress promptly. The 1996 Congressional Review Act says that major rules may not take effect until 60 days after they have been submitted to Congress for review. Though the new "Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information" were published in the Federal Register in December, they were never sent to Congress for review.
The new rules give patients the right to access their own health information, to obtain a copy of the information, and to request a correction of information that is inaccurate, and the right to receive an accounting of all disclosures of their information. The rules would also require health care providers to obtain written permission from patients in order to use or disclose information in the medical records for purposes other than health care. The standards also allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to impose fines for medical privacy violations.
Secretary Thompson says the new administration is absolutely committed to achieving the goals of the new medical privacy rules. He adds that the new review period was "an opportunity to ensure that the provisions of this final rule will indeed work as intended throughout the complex field of health care, without creating unanticipated consequences that might harm patients' access to care or the quality of that care." According to estimates of the Department of Health and Human Services, health care providers would spend at least $3.8 billion to implement the requirements of the new rules if they take effect. (See "Dateline Washington," CR, December 2000 and January 2001.)
The U.S. Department of Energy is reviewing several new appliance-efficiency standards issued in the last days of the Clinton Administration, including rules for washing machines. Some critics, like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, say the new rules for washing machines would effectively mandate front-loading washing machines instead of the popular and cheaper top-loading models. The washing machine rule, which calls for a 22% reduction in energy consumption by 2004 and a 35% reduction by 2007, is being subjected to a 60-day review. …