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Kennedy/Leahy Sponsored Bill Could Eclipse HIPAA

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Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Edward Kennedy (D-MA), are sponsoring a new bill (S. 1814) that would completely overhaul medical privacy legislation in the US and do away with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). According to a statement issued by the sponsors, "fear of a loss of privacy cannot be allowed to deter Americans from seeking medical treatment." The bill is far stronger than HIPAA with significantly increased consequences for healthcare companies who violate privacy.@

Among the most significant points of S. 1814 that affect the secure destruction industry are:@

  • A requirement that healthcare providers publicly identify their agents and subcontractors who handle private information
  • Removing the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) as the enforcement agency and creating a new agency called the Office of Health Information Privacy
  • Expansion of civil and criminal penalties related to breaches of privacy
  • Enforcement at the state level by state attorneys general
  • Instituting a private right of action for individuals@

NAID has already been in contact with the staff of the sponsors. While no action on the bill will likely be taken this year, it is very encouraging that there is now recognition that a change is needed and it is coming from some very important legislators.@HIPAA may have been a good start at medical privacy, but with little if any enforcement over time, healthcare providers are again getting lax.