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Congress Members Look To Strengthen Federal Privacy Laws In Medical Data

 |  July 24, 2023

More than three dozen members of Congress have signed a letter pushing the Biden Administration to strengthen the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). The letter calls for strengthened federal privacy law to protect abortion seekers and other Americans from ‘warrantless government surveillance.’

The current law allows law enforcement to obtain access to abortion records and other sensitive health data without a warrant. The proposed expansion of HIPPA by President Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services would prohibit doctors or healthcare providers from discussing patients’ protected health records following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe V. Wade. However, Senators Ron Wyden, Patty Murray, and Rep. Sara Jacobs argue these proposals are ‘woefully insufficient.’

The letter urges the Biden administration to go further and ensure all protected health information receives the same level of protection as text messages, calls, and location data. This includes preventing law enforcement agencies from sharing health records with other agencies, Fusion Centers, or government surveillance clearinghouses. In addition, patients should receive notification when their data is shared with law enforcement.

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“This lack of privacy protections undermines patients’ legal protections,” state the lawmakers in their letter. “We urge HHS to modify HIPAA to prevent any health care provider or health plan from releasing patient records to law enforcement without a search warrant.”

The new proposals are almost certain to receive tough pushback from conservative lawmakers who have already expressed opposition to the Biden Administration’s own proposal. Opponents argue that it would violate states’ rights and represents an overreach of presidential power.

Nevertheless, protection and privacy of health care data is an incredibly important issue, especially when it includes sensitive information such as that regarding abortions. Increased security, privacy, and transparency measures can help guarantee this critical right to all individuals in the U.S.

Source: Giz Modo