Schwarzenegger signs bills creating hospital privacy oversight office

Hospitals and other health facilities will face harsh new penalties if their employees snoop in the medical records of patients, under legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after privacy was breached on celebrities’ files — including his wife’s — at UCLA Medical Center.

Schwarzenegger approved two bills creating a state office to police patient privacy and to allow the state to issue fines as high as $250,000 for multiple violations.

The governor rejected most other major healthcare legislation aimed at protecting average Californians who face significant medical bills or inadequate insurance. In his veto messages, Schwarzenegger vented at the Legislature for rejecting his $14.9-billion plan to overhaul the state’s healthcare system in January and castigated lawmakers’ incremental proposals as inferior.

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