Privacy regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under the
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act purport to protect the privacy
of American patients' health information in several ways.
As summarized by HHS, the regulations are intended to give consumers control over
their health information; create "boundaries" around how medical records can be
used and released; ensure the security of personal health information; and establish
accountability for the use and release of medical records. The regulations also
"balance public responsibility with privacy protections," meaning that they allow
many uses of patient information without consent.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that its privacy regulations
will cost $17.6 billion dollars. In a variety of ways, the new privacy regulations
will restrict the ability of health care providers and their customers to obtain
efficiencies and higher quality care through innovation, costs that are not considered
in HHS' estimate.
Health care providers have always been under important legal obligations to safeguard
patient information — obligations that the HIPAA regulations dismiss as a "patchwork."
Existing law gives patients the right to sue health care providers
who invade their privacy or publish private information about them. New privacy standards
will not add to privacy protection; instead, they will add new health care costs and bureaucracy.
Rules Could Muddle Flow of Information, by Gail Liberman and Alan Lavine, Pittsburgh
Post Gazette (June 7, 2004).
Heartache Over HIPAA, Center for Individual Freedom (May 15, 2003).
Health and Human Services “Privacy” Standards: The Coming Destruction of American Medical
Privacy, by Charlotte Twight, The Independent Review (Spring 2002).
Administrative Simplification Web
site, Department of Health and Human Services.
on Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information Regulatory
Studies Program, Mercatus Center, George Mason University (February 17, 2000)
Letter from Congressman Ron Paul to Department of Health and
Human Services (December 9, 1999)