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M. Patients, discussions on individual patients

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  • Alabama

    Meetings of governmental bodies may be closed to discuss the physical condition or mental health of individuals. Ala. Code § 36-25A-7(a)(1). Also, records that contain patient information are confidential under the physician-patient privilege, see Horne v. Patton, 291 Ala. 701, 708-09, 287 So. 2d 824, 829-30 (1973), and state statute, see, e.g., Ala. Code § 22-21-8(b); therefore, public officials who receive this sensitive information will likely avoid discussion in an open meeting in such a way that confidentiality would be breached.

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  • Alaska

    While there is nothing in the Open Meetings Act that specifically protects the privacy of patients, as such, this is effectively the result of provisions exempting from the coverage of the act altogether meetings of a hospital medical staff, AS 44.62.310(d)(4), and meetings of the governmental body or any committee of a hospital when holding a meeting solely to act upon matters of professional qualifications, privileges or discipline. AS 44.62.310(d)(5). Some statutes allow those who are the subject of hearings relating to examination or treatment to exercise rights concerning public access. For example, upon receipt of a proper petition for a civil commitment for mental health reasons, the court holds a hearing, at which the respondent, the person to be committed, has certain rights, including the right to have the hearing open or closed to the public as the respondent elects. AS 47.30.735(b)(3).

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  • Arizona

    Arizona statutes do not specifically exempt from OML requirements any discussions about patients.  Many types of medical records, however, are exempt from public inspection.  E.g., A.R.S. § 12-2292 (“Unless otherwise provided by law, all medical records . . . are privileged and confidential.”).  Moreover, discussion or consideration of records exempt from public inspection may occur in executive session.  A.R.S. § 38-431.03(A)(2).

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  • Arkansas

    Because matters involving patients are not exempted by statute, the meeting must be open to the public. Keep in mind, however, the FOIA’s open meetings requirement generally applies only to a “governing body” of an entity subject to the act.

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  • California

    Under the Brown Act, a legislative body of a local agency that provides services pursuant to a contract with health care providers for services to Medi-Cal providers (Welfare and Institutions Code Section 14087.3), may hold a closed session to hear a charge or complaint from a member enrolled in its health plan if the member does not want his or her name, medical status or other information that is protected by federal law, publicly disclosed. Cal. Gov't Code § 54956.86. Prior to the closed session, the body must inform the member in writing, of his or her right to have an open session. Id.

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  • Colorado

    Closed. Because matters pertaining to patients are required to be kept confidential by statute, these matters may be considered in closed executive session.

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  • Connecticut

    There are no specific provisions or exemptions in FOIA on this issue. There are also no reported court decisions on this issue.

    An executive session may be allowed if an open session would result in the disclosure of exempt records. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-200(6)(E). See Records Outline at II.A.2 and IV.

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  • Delaware

    Patient meetings are probably closed to preserve privacy of the patient.

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  • District of Columbia

    The Act does not specifically authorize meetings concerning patients to be closed.  However, meetings may be closed pursuant to laws that require particular matters not to be made public.  Thus, other privacy laws concerning patient health information may be grounds for closure.  See D.C. Code Ann. § 2-575(b)(1).

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  • Florida

    There is no relevant statutory exemption from section 286.011 for discussions relating to patients; rather, open government provisions relating to patients are stated in terms of exemptions to the public records law. See Fla. Stat. § 395.3025(4) (2014) (patient records have a privileged and confidential status. . . .).

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  • Georgia

    The Act does not apply to meetings of any medical staff committee of a public hospital, O.C.G.A. § 50-14-3(a)(6)(A), of the governing authority or committee of a public hospital when performing a peer or medical review function under federal or state statute or regulation, § 50-14-3(a)(6)(B), citing § 31-7-15 and articles 6 and 6A of chapter 7 of title 31, or of the governing authority or committee of a public hospital in which the granting, restriction, or revocation of staff privileges or the granting of abortions under state or federal law is discussed, considered, or voted upon, § 50-14-3(a)(6)(C).

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  • Hawaii

    Such meetings may be closed if the discussions involve "sensitive matters relating to public safety or security," or matters that "require[] the consideration of information that must be confidential pursuant to state or federal law, or a court order." See Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 92-5(a)(6), (a)(8).

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  • Idaho

    There are various types of information held by governmental bodies in Idaho that are exempt from the general statutes dealing with the public’s right to inspect governmental records. The Open Meeting Law expressly permits a governing body to hold an executive session to discuss such records that are otherwise exempt from public inspection. Idaho Code § 74-206(1)(d). Patient information may fall within this category.

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  • Illinois

    Not addressed.

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  • Indiana

    Because a patient’s medical records are confidential under the Access to Public Records Act, , Ind. Code § 5-14-3-4(a)(9), an executive session may be held to discuss a patient’s medical records, Ind. Code § 5-14-1.5-6.1(b)(7). Health care provider peer review proceedings are confidential.  Ind. Code § 34-30-15-1, -2.

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  • Iowa

    Hospital records, including patient and former patient information, are confidential. Iowa Code § 22.7(2). Meetings to discuss records which are confidential need not be held in public. Iowa Code § 21.5(1)(a).

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  • Kansas

    An public body may recess into executive session “to discuss matters relating to actions adversely or favorably affecting a person as a . . . patient or resident of a public institution, except that any such person shall have the right to a public hearing if requested by the person.”  K.S.A. 75-4318(b)(5); see “Requirement to state statutory authority for closing meetings before closure” above.

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  • Kentucky

    No provision, except to the extent such discussions would be confidential under federal or other state law.

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  • Louisiana

    May be closed unless that person requests an open meeting if discussion involves physical or mental health of the patient. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 42:17(A)(l).

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  • Maine

    To the extent the discussion concerns information contained in an individual or mental health record, it can be held in executive session, since such records are invariably confidential. 1 M.R.S.A. § 405(6)(F).

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  • Maryland

    Although the Act is silent, arguably such meetings would be closed pursuant to the PIA because such information is exempt under the PIA. See e.g., § 3-305(b) (allowing for closure to protect privacy of individuals concerning matters unrelated to the public business); § 3-305(b)(13) (which allows closure to comply with a specific statutorily imposed requirement preventing public disclosure); § 4-329(c); see also Md. Code Ann., Health Gen'l § 4-302.

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  • Massachusetts

    Not covered. Most hospitals in Massachusetts are private institutions. In any event, patient privacy is protected by separate statute. G.L. c. 111, § 70E.

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  • Michigan

    Not addressed.

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  • Minnesota

    Under Minn. Stat. § 13D.05, subd. 2(a)(3), a meeting must be closed if health, medical or mental health data that would include patient information is to be discussed.

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  • Mississippi

    Hospitals are not covered by the Act. § 25-41-3(a).

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  • Montana

    Closed, unless the demands of privacy do not clearly exceed the merits of disclosure.

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  • Nebraska

    No specific exemption.

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  • Nevada

    A meeting may be closed to consider the health of a person. NRS 241.030(1).

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  • New Hampshire

    The Statute does not cover patient discussions. See RSA 329:26.

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  • New Jersey

    Discussions regarding individual patients and patient records may be held in closed session. N.J.S.A. 10:4-12b(3).

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  • New Mexico

    Only portions are open.  No specific statutory exemption exists under the Open Meetings Act or NMSA 1978 § 14-2-1, but an Attorney General's Opinion, 1955-1956 N.M. Op. Atty Gen. 6509, suggests that the parole board is obligated to avoid a disclosure of any "social record."  (Opinion rendered under previous versions of the Open Meetings and Inspection of Public Records Act.  See, e.g., NMSA 1978 §31-21-6, which suggests all "social records" including presentence reports, pre-parole reports, and supervision histories are confidential.)

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  • New York

    An executive session may be conducted to discuss the medical history of a particular person. N.Y. Pub. Off. Law § 105(1)(f) (McKinney 1988).

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  • North Carolina

    Under G.S. § 143-318(a)(1), a session might be closed if it would disclose confidential patient information. G.S. § 131E-97.

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  • North Dakota

    Generally not open.

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  • Ohio

    The statute contains no authority for executive sessions to discuss patients.

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  • Oklahoma

    There has been no case law on this issue.

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  • Oregon

    These may be exempt from Public Meetings Law entirely under ORS 192.690 or involve exempt public records, which permits an executive session.

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  • Pennsylvania

    Likely closed.  See, e.g., 50 P.S. §§ 8002, 8005 (requiring personal information of patients at a state-operated mental health facility to be kept confidential). In addition, a hospital board may not be considered an "agency" under the Act.

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  • Rhode Island

    Excluded by exemption (1), which includes “Any discussions of the . . . physical or mental health of a person.”  Persons affected, i.e. patients, may require the meeting to be open.

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  • South Carolina

    There is no reference in the act to patients.

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  • South Dakota

    Presumably closed. SDCL §19-13-6. But see SDCL §19-2-3 concerning waiver if health is an issue in any proceeding.

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  • Tennessee

    The Open Meetings Act makes no specific exemption for discussion of individual patients. But see T.C.A. § 10-7-504(a)(1) (1995) (making medical records of patients at state hospitals or medical facilities confidential); T.C.A. § 33-3-104(10) (making identity of present or former patients treated for mental illness or retardation confidential); T.C.A. § 8-44-102(B) (concerning meetings of private nonprofit corporations receiving money from the government).

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  • Texas

    The Act permits closed meetings of "a medical board or medical committee . . . to deliberate the medical or psychiatric records of an individual applicant for a disability benefit from a public retirement system." Id. § 551.078; see also Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. No. H-1154 (1978) (stating that The Montgomery County Child Welfare Board is a governmental body within the meaning of the Open Meetings Act but may meet in closed session for the limited purpose of discussing particular case files of persons receiving or applying for public assistance); Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. No DM-340 (1995) (stating that the board of trustees of a public retirement system may consider the individual medical and psychiatric records of an applicant for disability retirement benefits in a closed meeting because in such circumstances, the board of trustees is serving as a medical board or medical committee for purposes of the Open Meetings Act).

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  • Utah

    Discussions about an individual’s physical and mental health are exempt from the Open Meetings Act. Utah Code § 52-4-205(1)(a).

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  • Vermont

    Closed if involves consideration of document or record which is deemed confidential under Public Records Act.  1 V.S.A. § 313(a)(6).

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  • Virginia

    Discussions and consideration of medical and mental health records containing information concerning identifiable individuals may be closed. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3711.A.16.

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  • Washington

    There is no specific exemption for such meetings if they involve the governing body.

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  • West Virginia

    The Open Meetings Act permits closed sessions to discuss the "physical or mental health of any person, unless such person requests an open meeting." W. Va. Code § 6-9A-4(b)(5). Moreover, a number of specific statutes, discussed in the Freedom of Information Act section of this outline, provide for confidentiality for mental health, hospital and nursing home records concerning individual patients.

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  • Wisconsin

    Discussions of patients and their records are exempt only if likely to have substantial adverse effect upon the reputation of the person referred to. Wis. Stat. § 19.85(1)(f).

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  • Wyoming

    A custodian may deny access to an individual's hospital or medical records. Wyo. Stat. § 16-4-203(d)(vii) (1977, Rev. 1991). Houghton v. Franscell, 870 P.2d 1050 (Wyo. 1994). It is also a misdemeanor to disclose the contents of an individual's application as a qualified recipient of medical assistance unless the information is released related to medical assistance payment. The applicant or recipient may sign a waiver authorizing the release of such information. Wyo. Stat. § 42-4-112 (1977, Rev. 1995).

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