In a continued effort to ensure Congress does not work to create a national unique patient identifier, Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill to remove the provision from HIPAA to protect patient privacy.
Sen. Rand Paul, MD, R-Kentucky, has continued his push to ensure Congress does not implement a national patient identifier by introducing a bill to remove the provision from HIPAA altogether to ensure patient privacy.
Under HIPAA, the Department of Health and Human Services was called on to adopt standards to create a distinct ID for identifying the medical records of individuals, employers, providers, and health plans to use across all health systems.
However, Paul’s father, former congressman Ron Paul, R- Texas, introduced a funding ban on a national patient identifier in 1998 that has since been written into every appropriation bill for the last 20 years.
In recent years, as the industry moves to fuel interoperability, industry groups have called on Congress to remove the funding ban and move toward creating a unique identifier. CHIME, in particular, has been a staunch proponent for the development of a national patient identifier.
In August, CHIME joined 55 other health groups that urged Congress to remove the funding ban or adopt the unique identifier, along with finding a solution to protect patient privacy.
The House moved to remove the funding ban in June, but the Senate quashed the movement by leaving the language in the 2020 fiscal year funding legislation. At the time, groups like the Health Innovation Alliance (HIA) stressed that there was still time to change course.
But the bill proposed by Paul would remove the language from HIPAA altogether, stressing that the creation of the national identifier would actually heighten – not reduce – patient privacy risks.
“As a physician, I know firsthand how the doctor-patient relationship relies on trust and privacy, which will be thrown into jeopardy by a national patient ID,” Paul said.
“Considering how unfortunately familiar our world has become with devastating security breaches and the dangers of the growing surveillance state, it is simply unacceptable for government to centralize some of Americans’ most personal information,” he added.
To Paul, the identifier “would open the floodgates for a government-issued ID to be linked with the private medical history of every man, woman, and child in America.” The senator has spent the last few months advocating this position in hopes to keep the ban on identifier funding in the appropriations bills.
In direct response to Paul’s bill, CHIME President and CEO Russ Branzell blasted Paul’s viewpoint as “tired” and lacking “a grasp of current reality.”
“They are, to put it mildly, antiquated and from some bygone era,” Branzell said in a statement. “He tried a similar effort during a recent HELP Committee markup, but his ill-fated amendment was met with a resounding defeat by members of even his own party.”
“The patient identification conversation is one about saving lives and unlocking the potential for technology to revolutionize healthcare while cutting costs,” he added. “Even in the paper era, Congress recognized the criticality of identifying patients with the passage of HIPAA. They acknowledged that maintaining the privacy and security of health data is of the utmost importance, but that the data needs to be portable to aid in the provision of care.”
What’s more, Congress has already approved an identifier for Medicare beneficiaries, which will go into effect on January 1, 2020.
It’s yet to be seen which direction Congress will head. But advocacy groups are hoping Congress can see how the identifier can cut costs and improve patient matching. HIA has argued that patients are only accurately matched to their patient records about 50 percent of the time.
Date: October 03, 2019