Bush Delays, Studies Health Privacy Regs

February 26, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Bush administration has decided to delay new patient privacy regulations put in place in late December by then-President Clinton.

The move stops rules that were due to effect on February 26, but now will be delayed until April 14 to give lawmakers time to review and consider changes. Health care providers would not be forced to fully comply with the changes until April 14, 2003, officials said.

Private Parts

The rule would have blocked employer access to employee and applicant medical information.  In addition, employers that administer their own health care plans would have been barred from using medical information for anything other than health care.

The delay has been promoted by major insurers and health maintenance organizations (HMOs), claiming that the rules represent “unworkable standards” and will cost billions of dollars a year to implement.

Critics of the Clinton approach claim the changes will cost up to $18 billion over the next decade.  Supporters say it will actually save $12 billion by streamlining regulations and billing practices.

While the Bush administration is reportedly in favor of patient privacy, they are expected to pursue cheaper alternatives.

Under the proposed regulations,

  • doctors and hospitals would be required to obtain written consent before using a patients’ health information, even for routine purposes
  • patients would have the right to access their own medical files, as well as the right to request amendments or corrections.