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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Kennedy bill seeks to blunt HIPAA side effects
Dismayed by the "bizarre hodgepodge" of regulations layered onto the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, Senator Edward M. Kennedy (left) plans to introduce legislation to create an office within the Department of Health and Human Services dedicated to interpreting and enforcing medical privacy, according to a story in today's New York Times.
HIPAA was designed to allow Americans to take their health insurance coverage with them when they changed jobs, with provisions to keep medical information confidential. But new studies have found that some health care providers apply HIPAA regulations overzealously, the Times story says, leaving family members, caretakers, public health and law enforcement authorities stymied in their efforts to get information.
Kennedy, a sponsor of the original bill, is bothered by the departmentís failure to provide "adequate guidance on what is and is not barred by the law," several staff members told the Times. Senator Patrick M. Leahy of Vermont is a co-sponsor of the new bill.
"In this electronic era it is essential to safeguard the privacy of medical records while insuring our privacy laws do not stifle the flow of information fundamental to effective health care," Kennedy said.