An organization which monitors health policies and advocates the freedom of choice in healthcare has issued a statement criticizing the stimulus package for allowing space for privacy breaches.
According to the Washington-based Institute for Health Freedom, the final version of the economic stimulus bill permits personal health information to be exchanged and sold for research and public-health purposes without patient consent.
"Most Americans have no idea that the so-called HIPAA privacy rule doesn’t give patients the freedom to give or withhold consent before their personal health information can be shared with others for many purposes," says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom.
She adds, "Digitizing people’s health records combined with allowing researchers and public-health officials to buy their data from doctors and health plans is going to pave the way for research on millions of Americans [without their explicit consent]."
The institute, whose statement is supported by Citizens’ Council on Health Care, is also critical of the plan to convert the health records of each American into an electronic version by 2014 without allowing an opt-out.
Last Friday, Congress passed the economic stimulus package worth $787 billion which includes $19 billion in spending on health IT as well as $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health.