Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
United States House of Representatives
Statement Introducing the
Protect Patients’ and Physicians’ Privacy Act (HR 2630)
May 21, 2009
Ron Paul: Madam Speaker, I rise to introduce the Protect Patients’ and Physicians’ Privacy Act. This legislation protects medical privacy, as well as quality health care, by allowing patients and physicians to opt out of any federally mandated, created, or funded electronic medical records system. The bill also repeals the sections of federal law establishing a “unique health identifier” and requires patient consent before any electronic medical records can be released to a third party.
Congress has refused to fund the development of a unique health identifier every year since 1998. Clearly, the majority of my colleagues recognize the threat this scheme poses to medical privacy. It is past time for Congress to repeal the section of law authorizing the federal unique health identifier.
Among the numerous provisions jammed into the stimulus bill, which was rushed through Congress earlier this year, was funding for electronic medical records. Medicare providers have until 2015 to “voluntarily” adopt the system of electronic medical records, or face financial penalties.
One of the major flaws with the federally-mandated electronic record system is that is does not provide adequate privacy protection. Electronic medical records that are part of the federal system will only receive the protection granted by the federal “medical privacy rule.” This misnamed rule actually protects the ability of government officials and state-favored special interests to view private medical records without patient consent.
Even if the law did not authorize violations of medical privacy, patients would still have good reason to be concerned about the government’s ability to protect their medical records. After all, we are all familiar with cases where third parties obtained access to electronic veteran, tax, and other records because of errors made by federal bureaucrats. My colleagues should also consider the abuse of IRS records by administrations of both parties and ask themselves what would happen if unscrupulous politicians gain the power to access their political enemies’ electronic medical records.
As an OB/GYN with over 30 years of experience in private practice, I understand that one of the foundations of quality health care is the patient’s confidence that all information the patient shares with his or her health care provider will remain confidential. As an OB/GYN with over 30 years of experience in private practice, I understand that a physician’s ability to provide effective treatment often depends on a patients’ trust that all personal information divulged to a physician will remain confidential. Forcing physicians to place their patients’ medical records in a system without adequate privacy protection undermines that confidence, and thus undermines effective medical treatment.
A physician opt out is also necessary in order to allow physicians to escape from the inefficiencies and other problems that are sure to occur in the implementation and management of the federal system. Contrary to the claims of the mandatory system’s proponents, it is highly unlikely an efficient system of mandatory electronic health records can be established by the government.
Many health technology experts have warned of the problems that will accompany the system of mandatory electronic medical records. For example, David Kibbe, a top technology adviser to the American Academy of Family Physicians, warned President Obama in an open letter late last year that existing medical software is often poorly designed and does a poor job of exchanging information. Allowing physicians to opt out provides a safety device to ensure that physicians can avoid the problems that will inevitably accompany the government-mandated system.
Madam Speaker, allowing patients and providers to opt out of the electronic medical records system will in no way harm the practice of medicine or the development of an efficient system of keeping medical records. Instead, it will enhance these worthy goals by ensuring patients and physicians can escape the inefficient, one-size-fits-all government–mandated system. By creating a market for alternatives to the government system, the op-out ensures that private businesses can work to develop systems that meet the demands for an efficient system of electronic records that protects patients’ privacy. I urge my colleagues to stand up for privacy and quality health care by cosponsoring the Protect Patients’ and Physicians’ Privacy Act.
Protect Patients and Physicians Privacy Act (Introduced in House)
HR 2630 IH
111th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 2630
To protect the privacy of patients and physicians.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
May 21, 2009
Mr. PAUL introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned
To protect the privacy of patients and physicians.
- Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
- This Act may be cited as the `Protect Patients and Physicians Privacy Act’.
SEC. 2. PATIENT RIGHT TO OPT OUT OF ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORDS SYSTEM.
- All individuals shall have the ability to opt out of any Federally mandated, created, or funded electronic system for maintaining health care information.
SEC. 3. REPEAL OF STANDARD UNIQUE HEALTH IDENTIFIERS.
- (a) In General-
- (1) Section 1173 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1320d-2) is amended by striking subsection (b).
- (2) Section 1177(a) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1320d-6(a)) is amended by striking paragraph (1).
- (b) Prohibition of Federal Expenditures- No Federal funds shall be used to support, encourage, or otherwise promote the use of standard unique health identifiers (such as those described in section 1173(b) of the Social Security Act, before the amendment made by subsection (a)(1)) in any Federal, State, or private health care plan.
SEC. 4. REQUIREMENT OF INFORMED CONSENT FOR SHARING INFORMATION FROM ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS.
- (a) Limitation on Sharing Information From EMRs-
- (1) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in paragraph (2), no information from any electronic medical record maintained by a health care provider and created pursuant to a Federally mandated, created, or funded program may be shared with another health care provider absent a signed, informed consent from the patient involved.
- (2) EXCEPTION FOR EMERGENCIES- Paragraph (1) shall not apply in a medical emergency.
- (b) Limitation on Merger of Information- No health care information from an individual medical record shall be placed in a Federally mandated, created, or funded electronic system of health care information, absent a signed, informed consent from the patient involved.
- (c) Definitions- In this subsection:
- (1) INFORMED CONSENT- The term `informed consent’ means, with respect to the sharing of information concerning a patient, a written document certifying that the patient gives permission to such sharing of information.
- (2) MEDICAL EMERGENCY- The term `medical emergency’ means any situation where the failure to provide immediate medical treatment or assistance could result in serious injury, loss of life, or both.
SEC. 5. PROVIDER FREEDOM FROM REQUIRED PARTICIPATION IN AN ELECTRONIC HEALTH CARE RECORDS PROGRAM.
- (a) In General- The Federal Government may not require a health care provider to participate in any Federally mandated, created, or funded electronic system of maintaining health care information.
- (b) Limitation- No health care provider shall be denied participation in, or otherwise sanctioned with respect to participation in, a Federal health care program because the provider refuses to participate in a Federally mandated, created, or funded electronic system of maintaining health care information.