February 16, 2000
Dear Member of Congress:
On behalf of the thousands of doctors who are members of AAPS and their hundreds of thousands of patients, we respectfully request that you act immediately to postpone the February 17, 2000 deadline for public comments on proposed medical privacy regulations in the wake of efforts by HHS to thwart public input.
AAPS joins groups such as the ACLU and Liberty Study Committee in protesting the heavy-handed tactics of HHS to prevent citizen input on this issue.
In accordance with the federal rule-making process, February 17 was established as the deadline for public comments on the regulations to be issued by HHS later this year. But HHS has thrown up a myriad of bureaucratic roadblocks to citizen input.
In effect, HHS has pulled the plug on meaningful public comment. These regulations would allow the government to open Americans' medical files without their consent. Apparently HHS is trying to slide these rules through without their consent or input as well.
Federal rules allow the public to comment via mail, fax or email. But after receiving so many faxes, HHS has announced it would no longer accept faxes because of "possible threats or danger" to HHS officials. Further, HHS is telling citizens who mail comments that they must send one original, three copies AND a floppy disk. Individuals who try to email are asked a number of invasive questions and assigned a personal identifier number and password before their comments will be accepted.
This is the ultimate Catch-22. American citizens who want to complain about government invasion of their constitutional right to privacy are being required to subject themselves to the ultimate violation of privacy.
Members of Congress have voted for a "Patients' Bill of Rights." One important aspect is protecting patients' constitutional right to privacy, which HHS is attempting to circumvent. Please act now to prevent this violation of all Americans' rights.
JANE M. ORIENT, MD