Proposals within the economic stimulus bill to expand HIPAA privacy rule provisions would have unintended consequences that could impede progress in using health information technology, according to Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans in Washington.

The trade association strongly supports the health I.T. funding provisions in the bill, she told reporters during a conference call on Feb. 4. The legislation, AHIP believes, would make a critical down payment on increased quality, transparency and cost efficiencies across the nation. "We're on the precipice of taking a major step forward."

But progress already made to wire up health care would be imperiled if the proposed privacy provisions in the stimulus bill were enacted, Ignagni contended. "This progress has occurred with the current protections outlined under the HIPAA guidelines."

AHIP's concerns rest with provisions that would further restrict use of patient data for payment, treatment and operational functions. Marketing restrictions that go beyond those already in HIPAA would prevent providers and payers from sending consumers prescription refill reminders and preventive care notices, Ignagni said.

The potential in the bill to require patient consent before use of any information would adversely affect disease management programs, result in incomplete medical records and impede emergency care, she added.

Requiring covered entities to account for all disclosures of personal health information would discourage use of electronic health records systems because all disclosures of electronic data would have to be documented, Ignagni contended.

Further, giving state attorneys general the authority to enforce the privacy rule "creates a 50-state approach to interpreting federal law," she said.

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