SC Medical Group Requests High Court HIPAA Review

July 30, 2003 ( - A South Carolina doctors' group has asked the US Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court ruling that Congress didn't give away its authority when it authorized the creation of medical information privacy regulations.

>The South Carolina Medical Association said it was asking the high court to review the US 4 th  Circuit Court of Appeals ruling because appeals jurists gave too much legislative authority to the US Department of Health and Human Services  to issue privacy regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (See  Appeals Court Upholds HIPAA ).

The April 2003 4th Circuit decision said “Congress laid out an intelligible principle in HIPAA to guide agency action” and did not, therefore, delegate its legislative functions to HHS in violation of the US Constitution. The appeals court also found that the privacy regulations, challenged by physicians and physicians organizations in South Carolina, were consistent with HIPAA and were not impermissibly vague ( South Carolina Medical Association v. Thompson, 327 F.3d 346 (4th Cir. 2003).

By its ruling, the appeals court affirmed an August 2002 decision by a judge in the US District Court for the District of South Carolina that found the HIPAA rules were valid with respect to the authority Congress delegated to HHS.

The trial court found Congress did not violate the separation of powers doctrine when it gave HHS wide discretion in Section 264 of HIPAA to issue the medical privacy regulations. The court concluded that Congress provided HHS with sufficient guidance and limits on its discretion.

The case before the Supreme Court is South Carolina Medical Association v. Thompson , U.S., No. 03-114, petition filed 7/21/03).