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Bush endorses Clinton medical privacy rules

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Apr 13, 2001    

Bush endorses Clinton medical privacy rules

  • Medical privacy rules passed by the Clinton administration will become effective, despite concerns from journalists that they are too broad.

President George W. Bush on April 12 directed Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to allow medical privacy rules which became final shortly before the Clinton Administration left office to become effective.

Because of timing difficulties in the final rules from the previous administration, the current administration had an opportunity to review and amend these rules. Thompson opened the rules for an extended short comment period in which HHS received an additional 24,000 comments.

Forty press organizations joined in comments opposing the broad reach of the privacy protections but neither the president nor the secretary addressed their concerns in the statements released with the decision. The administration did however acknowledged that some modifications would be made to allow medical professionals to consult with each other, to allow pharmacists to continue filling phone prescriptions and to give parents access to information about their children including cases of mental health, substance abuse or abortion.

Journalist organizations had urged both the Clinton and Bush administrations to modify the rules, arguing that they go too far in restricting access, subject whistleblowers acting in the public’s interest to prosecution and fines, and curb journalists’ abilities to report on emergencies, on medical wrongdoing and other areas of strong and legitimate public concern.

(Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information) RD

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