Contact: Kathryn Serkes (202) 333-3855 (206) 784-5758
HHS OBSTRUCTION OF PUBLIC ON MEDICAL PRIVACY PROMPTS DOCTORS TO ASK CONGRESS FOR URGENT ACTION
In the wake of HHS efforts to thwart public input, The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is asking Congress to postpone tomorrow's deadline for public comments on controversial medical privacy regulations.
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.
The government is about to change the rules about who has access to everyone's medical records. These new rules will make it easier for a wide variety of individuals, government agencies and groups to get the private medical records of every person in the US and track all patient files on a central government database.
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.
In a letter to Congress, AAPS Executive Director, Dr. Jane M. Orient, says: "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 announced it would no longer accept faxes because of "possible threats or danger" to HHS officials. Further, citizens who mail comments are told to 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.
"It's the ultimate Catch-22. American citizens who want to complain about government invasion of their constitutional right to privacy must subject themselves to the ultimate violation of privacy," said Dr. Orient.
AAPS opposes the new regulations, citing increased invasion of patient privacy, such as:
"Medical privacy regulations should be simple -- expressly forbidding a doctor or anyone acting under his control, from releasing a patient's medical records to a third party without his express consent," said Dr. Orient. "We don't need Big Brother in the examining room."
AAPS is a national organization of physicians dedicated to the protection of the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship from third-party intrusion since 1943.