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President Clinton Announces New Medical Privacy RegulationsAired December 20, 2000 - 2:39 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Shifting focus to medical news and another initiative that comes in the waning days of the Clinton administration: The president has issued sweeping new federal regulations to protect the confidentiality of medical patients' records.
CNN medical correspondent Eileen O'Connor is following these developments from the White House. She joins us now to tell us all about it -- Eileen.
EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, the president announced these regulations just a short time before his meeting with Middle East negotiators. And, basically, this is the first set of federal regulations that would ensure privacy for consumers, for patients over their medical records.
And what this covers is your oral communications with your doctors, your written communications, any records -- electronic -- and even records from test results, for instance. And, basically, it's the first time such privacy laws have been instituted. The industry wanted one federal law, because they felt that a patchwork of state regulations was forming around this issue. And also, there was a misuse of information. Certain companies were actually selling this information to marketers, where they were able to basically target patients as consumers and advertise directly to them for certain medical products or for certain medications.
Also, a very important misuse the president addressed today was employers using this information to perhaps deny someone in their company a job based on a current medical condition or a potential medical condition.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A recent survey showed that more than a third of all Fortune 500 companies check medical records before they hire or promote. One large employer in Pennsylvania had no trouble obtaining detailed information on the prescription drugs taken by its workers, easily discovering that one employee was HIV positive. That is wrong. Under the rules we released today, it will now be illegal.
(END VIDEO CLIP) O'CONNOR: Now, some health care providers have actually criticized these rules as creating another layer of bureaucracy and possibly getting in the way of patient treatment. Basically, they say it could get in the way of programs that inform you that your children perhaps need to update their immunizations, or perhaps that you need a new mammogram. And this is information that other companies provide.
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RICHARD SMITH, VICE PRESIDENT, AAHP: It's a long, complex set of rules. At first blush, we have some concerns that these very long and complex rules may not have gotten the balance quite right between being able to use information to help patients improve their health care, and protecting the privacy of information.
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O'CONNOR: Now, also these regulations do have some teeth. Basically, it's up to a year in prison and $50,000 fine for anyone intentionally releasing medical records against someone's wishes -- also, $250,000 and 10 years in prison if you intend to actually sell that information.
I'm Eileen O'Connor, reporting live from the White House.
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