Armey Critical of Privacy Rules
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WASHINGTON (AP)_ New medical privacy rules give the federal government unfettered access to personal records, says a Republican leader who’s asking the Bush administration to retool the regulations.
``Every family that cherishes its privacy ought to be disturbed by this massive grant of federal authority,″ House Majority Leader Dick Armey said in a letter Wednesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
The Texas Republican cites a section of the regulations that says any doctor, hospital or other health provider that holds a patient’s records ``must permit access by the (Health and Human Services) Secretary at any time and without notice.″
Armey is asking Thompson to change that language to give record holders at least 24 hours notice, rather than none at all.
He also wants the rule to require the cabinet office to get a search warrant to see records in cases where there is reason to believe documents might be hidden or destroyed.
``We demand federal agents obtain a search warrant before going through our personal papers,″ he says in the letter. ``Why not our medical records, which are often even more sensitive?″
Tony Jewell, a spokesman for Thompson, said agency leaders ``are taking into account all of the comments that have come in, including those from Congressman Armey.″
Last month, President Bush opposed hospitals and insurers and endorsed the sweeping rules from the Clinton era. They offer the first-ever federal right for patients to control who sees their medical records. For instance, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers must get permission before disclosing patients’ information.
However, Bush has proposed changes that include allowing parents to see their children’s records. Proposed changes will be issued later.