1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9
Tucson, AZ 85716-3450
Phone: (800) 635-1196
Hotline: (800) 419-4777
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc.
A Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943
Omnia pro aegroto

December 20, 1999

ACTION ALERT! COMMENTS DUE ON [END-OF-] PRIVACY REGS!

Although Bill Clinton has announced, with great fanfare, that his Administration will protect patient privacy, the "privacy" regulations actually set up a great mechanism for collecting intimate information for FBI dossiers.

The rules change the basic principle that the patient should determine the permissible uses of his or her medical record. If these rules go into effect, the federal government will determine the permissible and required uses and disclosures.

These rules will affect your practice, even if you don't transmit records electronically. They apply to you if your billing agent or hospital transmits electronically, or if you ever send information by a paper-to-computer FAX. The goal of the Clinton Administration is to get control over paper records also.

If you violate the rules, you could spend from

one to ten years in federal prison and pay fines ranging from $50,000 to $250,000.

Among many other things, the rules require all "covered entities" (including solo physicians) to appoint a "privacy official" and develop a number of forms and procedures for the office.

HCFA has generously extended the deadline from just after the holidays until February 17. So far, few comments have been received-few have even finished reading the 1.3 megabytes of rules.

A brief version of AAPS comments was sent with the January newsletter. The complete version, along with a letter from Ron Paul and comments from others and a link to the actual rules, are posted on our web site (www.aapsonline.org). Also posted, or available by FAX (call 800-419-4777 and leave your FAX number), is a sample comment letter for physicians and one for patients.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
  • Post this alert in your office and your hospital, and distribute it to colleagues, along with a sample comment letter on your letterhead.
  • Write your own letter; boilerplate is disregarded.
  • Emphasize how the rules will affect your practice, or your interactions with physicians.
  • Send us a copy of your comments, and/or post your comments and suggestions on our forum, aaps.forums.commentary.net
  • Send copies of comments to your congressional delegation, with a cover letter asking for legislation to (1) stop the national patient identifier; (2) forbid warrantless searches of medical records; (3) establish by law that patients own their medical data and use/disclosure should be determined by private contractual arrangement, not bureaucratic dictate; (4) establish a private right of action for patients who are harmed by unlawful disclosure of their records whether by private entities or government agents.

Address for comments (1 orig., 3 copies, floppy disk if possible): Dept HHS, Asst Secy for Planning and Evaluation, Attention: Privacy-P, Room G-322A, Hubert Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20201.