Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

APA Opposes Dilution of Patient Privacy Rule. (HHS Reviewing Comments)

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

APA Opposes Dilution of Patient Privacy Rule. (HHS Reviewing Comments)

Article excerpt

The Bush administration's proposal to do away with the requirement that patients give written consent to disclosure of medical information is a "tragic mistake," the American Psychiatric Association said in response to the highly publicized action.

"The APA has long seen confidentiality as the foundation of the therapeutic alliance between patients and their psychiatric physicians," incoming APA President Paul S. Appelbaum said in a statement. "The proposed changes to the regulations eliminate patient protections--whether medical care is paid for by insurance or out of pocket."

The APA was one of many medical groups that voiced objections to the administration's proposed alteration of the privacy rules, which were first issued in 2000 by President Bill Clinton to implement the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The 30-day period for commenting on the Bush administration's proposed rule ended last month. The Department of Health and Human Services will review the comments before announcing a final ruling. Physicians and most health plans must be in compliance by April 14, 2003. Small health plans will have an additional year to comply.

Medical groups that opposed the administration's proposal to remove the patient's written consent requirement say that the action strikes at the heart of federal patient privacy protections.

Robert Doherty, senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy for the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, said the action was disappointing but not unexpected, since the insurance industry pushed hard for the elimination of written patient consent, and the health care community was divided in its views toward it.

Dr. Donald J. Palmisano, secretary-treasurer of the American Medical Association said in a statement that "the AMA is concerned that the administration has proposed removing the patient consent requirement instead of modifying it to make it more workable."

The administration's action was a "devastating blow," according to the Consumer Coalition for Health Privacy, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group. "Without a prior consent requirement, patients will have no control over how their health information is used or disclosed," the group said in a statement. …

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