Provider, health IT groups praise proposed bills to change patient privacy regulations

Healthcare and health IT groups are supporting recently proposed legislation aimed at reforming a patient privacy regulation by aligning it with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Healthcare provider groups and health IT associations say the confidentiality statute, known as 42 CFR part 2, can hinder care coordination and patient access. Last year, Congress reached consensus on a legislation package aimed at the opioid crisis, but the update to that regulation was not included.

Two bills have been reintroduced in Congress to renew the push to align 42 CFR Part 2 with HIPAA. Representatives Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon, and Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, introduced the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety (OPPS) Act in the House of Representatives and Senators Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia and Joe Manchin, D-West Virgina, introduced the Protecting Jessica Grubb's Legacy Act in the Senate.

“This bill works to remove the stigma that comes with substance use disorders and ensures necessary information is available for safe, efficient, and transparent treatment for all patients,” Rep. Blumenauer said in a statement.

By aligning 42 CFR part 2 with the patient privacy protections currently in place under HIPAA, the medical community will be able to utilize substance use disorder treatment records in the same manner as all other medical records, Blumenauer said. The legislation also incorporates language to guard against unauthorized invasions of patient privacy and discriminatory activities and authorizes strong enforcement penalties and breach notification requirements for these transgressions, which are not currently available under Part 2.

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The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) applauded the proposed legislation as necessary to help clinicians treat patients struggling with addiction.

Russell Branzell, CHIME president and CEO, said in a statement “It is essential that healthcare providers have a complete medical history with all relevant information that will help them treat patients. To ensure the highest quality of care, information pertaining to substance use disorder (SUD) history must be shared. Unfortunately, under current law, SUD treatment and diagnoses are kept confidential from other providers, which can be extremely problematic when a clinician is attempting to treat someone but is unaware of their prior addiction history.”

“Our members strongly support synchronizing these consent policies, which will save lives, reduce the burdens imposed by these two different sets of rules and facilitate consent for the purposes of treatment, payment and healthcare operations under HIPAA,” Branzell said.

A healthcare coalition of nearly 50 organizations called the Partnership to Amend CFR Part 2 also praised the proposed legislation in a joint statement (PDF). Pamela Greenberg, the group’s chairperson and the president and CEO for the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, said substance use disorder treatment privacy regulations are one of the biggest barriers to fighting the opioid crisis.

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Members of the coalition include major healthcare industry trade groups such as the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plains, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the Joint Commission, Premier Healthcare Alliance, Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative, Alliance of Community Health Plans and the American Health Information Management Association, among others.

“These bills will align Part 2 with HIPAA for treatment, payment, and health care operations, while strengthening protections against the use of addiction records in criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings,” Greenberg said in a statement.