Patient Privacy Rights Urges the House to Maintain the Practical, Commonsense Protections in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, “HITECH Act”

January 22, 2009

Contact: Ashley Katz, Patient Privacy Rights, (512) 897-6390, akatz@localhost:8888/pprold; or

WASHINGTON –As the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Ways and Means Committee markup the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, “HITECH Act” today, Patient Privacy Rights (PPR) urges the committees to ensure all consumer protections in the bill remain. The current draft of the legislation includes many essential privacy provisions that must accompany the $20 billion promotion of health IT in the economic stimulus. PPR supports the practical, commonsense measures in the bill that begin to restore the consumer privacy protections that have been eliminated over the last eight years.

Ensuring privacy results in two important outcomes: it protects employees at a time when over eleven million Americans are unemployed, and helps ensure a successful health IT system that Americans trust.

“This bill is designed to stop harmful, illegal, and unethical sales and uses of Americans’ personal health information, from prescription records to DNA and genetic tests—while ensuring that the healthcare system can benefit from new technologies,” said Deborah C. Peel, MD, Founder of Patient Privacy Rights. “Americans need jobs in this bad economy and should be hired based on what they can do, not turned away because of fears that they will become sick and expensive employees in the future. We strongly support this bill as the first step toward meaningful and comprehensive privacy protections needed to create a trusted electronic health system.”

The prohibition on the sale of protected health information is critical. Personal health information is not a typical commodity and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Congress must also ensure accountability, control and transparency with Health IT. In addition to the prohibition on sale, PPR urges members to fight any weakening of the provisions that improve enforcement, require audit trails, breach notification, limitations on marketing and other uses of our personal information.

We applaud the Committees’ leadership and willingness to stand with consumers so that patient protections trump profit and that accountability and transparency are assured where our taxpayer dollars are spent. We urge these members to maintain the privacy protections and integrity of this important legislation.

Read PPR’s Letter of support here.

About Patient Privacy Rights:

As the nation’s health privacy watchdog, Patient Privacy Rights works to ensure that we don’t have to choose between privacy and health care or health IT. Patient Privacy Rights is a 501(c)3 nonprofit headquartered in Austin, Texas with an office in Washington D.C., funded solely by individuals. Founded by a practicing physician, our mission is to ensure Americans control access to their personal health information so that we progress with privacy. When our most intimate information can be sold and shared with the click of a mouse, many may lose opportunities for work, wealth and well being.

Patient Privacy Rights leads the bi-partisan Coalition for Patient Privacy, representing nearly 12 million Americans and including over 50 consumer organizations and technology corporations such as the ACLU, American Conservative Union, American Association for People with Disabilities, AIDS Action, Family Research Council and Microsoft.

To see a copy of the Coaltion for Patient Privacy’s letter to Congress go to: http://www.localhost:8888/pprold/media/CoalitionPatPriv_Final01.14.09.pdf