Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Administration Dishes Up New Unfunded Mandate

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Administration Dishes Up New Unfunded Mandate

Article excerpt

Cities Urged to Comment on Privacy Regulations

The administration has just announced proposed privacy regulations with serious implications for municipalities.

On November 3, responding to requirements of the 1996 Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a 638-page proposed regulation governing the circumstances under which medical records information is to be maintained and disclosed.

The regulation is designed to address growing public concern that advances in electronic technology will result in the erosion of individual privacy.

While the rule creates new protections for consumers, it will impose expensive unfunded mandates on cities, their law enforcement department, and health insurance providers.

For the many cities and towns that participate in health insurance pools or have jurisdiction over public health facilities or schools, the standards would mandate creation of new business practices and control mechanisms.

Health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses would be required to implement many changes, including:

* training employees about privacy considerations;

* strategy development for receiving and responding to patient complaints and records access requests;

* installation of electronic and structural security safeguards; and

* designation of a "privacy officer" for the overall implementation of the provisions.

Further, covered entities would be required to enter into contracts with business partners to ensure third-party compliance with the standards. …

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