Skip to content

    Health Care Reform:

    Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

    The latest HMO laws being haggled over in Congress.

    Washington's Plan For HMOs

    Medical Records

    In 1996, Congress gave itself three years to pass a law that would preserve the privacy of medical records, particularly records that are transmitted electronically. If it failed to complete the task in the assigned time, the job was to go to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

    Congress missed its deadline this past August, and now the HHS is hard at work writing appropriate regulations. Nothing is final, but the HHS recently made some proposals. Health plans, hospitals, doctors, clinics, and the like would be able to transmit your medical records without your permission for purposes of treatment, payment, and public interest -- medical research, for example. But for other purposes, the sender must first receive your permission. The HHS also would give you the right to review and correct your medical file, to learn who has looked at it, and to sue those who have your records but do not abide by the HHS's privacy rules.

    Note however that the HHS has authority to protect only electronic records. Federal protection of paper files requires another act of Congress. If the HHS keeps to its schedule, the medical records protections will be settled in February. Congress will take longer to pass a patient protection act and Medicare drug coverage. Don't expect them before next fall.

    Today on WebMD

    stethoscope on person's chest
    Your Marketplace choices,
    How not to waste money on health care.
    man in cafe looking at computer
    Finding low-cost health insurance.
    doctor showing girl a stethoscope
    Get the facts on health insurance.

    Latest Health Reform News

    Loading …
    URAC: Accredited Health Web Site TRUSTe online privacy certification HONcode Seal AdChoices