New oversight, stiffer penalties approved for snooping into patient records

Alarmed by breaches in which UCLA Medical Center employees snooped in the confidential records of celebrities including Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett and California First Lady Maria Shriver, state lawmakers moved Tuesday to clamp hospital files shut with new oversight and stiffer penalties.

Legislators also approved a bid to extend healthcare coverage to those with preexisting medical conditions.

The Assembly did not meet Tuesday. But the state Senate approved a measure that would require hospitals to draft a plan to safeguard patient information and set up a new state Office of Health Information Integrity with power to review plans and violations and assess fines of up to $250,000 against people who violate patient privacy.

A companion bill, which the Senate has yet to act on, would allow fines of up to $250,000 against healthcare providers in case of breaches

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