Lawmakers consider bill to limit patient health data privacy law

by California Healthline, Healthcare IT News

On Tuesday, the California Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider legislation (AB 439) that would limit a state health data privacy law, Healthcare IT News reports.

Details of AB 439

The legislation — by Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D- East Bay) — would affect the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, which allows patients to take legal action against a health care provider if their health records are released without their permission.

The Consumer Federation of California — which opposes the bill — said it would exempt health care corporations that commit significant privacy violations from damage awards if they can provide an "affirmative defense" when sued by patients.

AB 439 would deny a judge’s discretion to assign damages based on the circumstances of the information breach.

The McKesson Corporation, a health IT developer, supports the bill.

Organizations that oppose the legislation include:

    California Alliance for Retired Americans;
    Consumer Action;
    Consumer Watchdog;
    Electronic Frontier Foundation;
    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; and
    World Privacy Forum.


Skinner said the bill seeks to update the confidentiality law for "the digital age, protecting patient privacy while also recognizing that inappropriate release may occur even when providers adopt strict protections."

However, Richard Holober — executive director of the Consumer Federation of California — said, "Californians want to hold health care businesses accountable in court — and want them to pay a stiff price when they violate our medical privacy."

He said that the bill "eliminates an important financial deterrent against cutting corners when safeguarding our records" (McCann, Healthcare IT News, 7/2).

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