Bill sought to shield medical data

A bipartisan mix of lawmakers and private companies say Congress should pass legislation protecting the medical records of patients from potential identity theft and abuse.

The coalition includes liberal lawmakers, such as Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat; the conservative Family Research Council; and Microsoft Corp.

“Medical information is probably the most sensitive and personal information that we have about ourselves. Without strong privacy safeguards, a health [information-technology] database will become an open invitation for identity thieves, fraudsters, extortionists or marketers looking to cash in on our medical histories,” Mr. Markey said, adding that “tough privacy safeguards” are necessary to reap the benefits of integrated health databases.

The electronic medical record legislation working its way through Congress would allow data-mining companies and “4 million other individuals and entities” to secretly access millions of private medical records, creating a potential boon for misuse and identity theft, they say.

“If you think we’ve got a problem with identity theft now, just wait,” said Dr. Deborah Peel, who chairs the Patient Privacy Rights coalition, a group asking Congress to pass laws ensuring individual privacy protections for medical records.

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