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Bush adopts inherited Clinton medical privacy rules

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  1. Freedom of Information
From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 35.

From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 35.

President George W. Bush on April 12 directed the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt the medical privacy rules published as final in December by the HHS under the Clinton administration.

He said the new rules will give patients “full access” to their medical records and more control over how their personal information will be used and disclosed. The president also noted that the rule gives a “clear avenue of recourse” to Americans whose medical privacy has been compromised.

The president said he had asked HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson to modify the rules to ensure that parents have access to their children’s medical records, including abortion records. Bush did not mention concerns of more than 40 news organizations who objected to the stringent rules that levy fines and prison sentences against health care workers who give out information about their patients.

Two state associations, the Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association prepared comments for the state and national journalists’ organizations, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, telling the government that the rules would censor news reports on everything from “basic hospital information about patients who are victims of violent crime, traffic accidents or natural disasters to investigative reporting concerning health care fraud, patient abuse or environmental hazards.”

They urged HHS to account for the public’s legitimate needs for information from hospitals and other health care sources. They also provided a thick folder of news stories, which they said could not have been written under the new rules. –RD