No agreement on privacy implications of stimulus package

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No agreement on privacy implications of the stimulus packageLike any piece of legislation the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was always going to provoke mixed reactions, and medical advocacy groups are it finding it hard to agree on the implications of its privacy provisions.

In a newly released statement, the American Psychological Association praises the part of the ARRA which deals with health information technology regulations, known as the HITECH Act. The organization stresses the bill will mandate standards for better privacy and security protection in the health care system.

"The HITECH Act is the most comprehensive HIT legislation introduced by Congress and represents a giant leap forward for psychologists and their patients, achieving strong patient records privacy and security protections," it says.

Meanwhile, according to the Washington-based Institute for Health Freedom, the stimulus package permits personal health information to be exchanged and sold for research and public-health purposes without patient consent.

The institute 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.

Congress passed the economic stimulus package worth $787 billion on February 13. It includes $19 billion in spending on health IT as well as $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health.

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Personal Liberty News Desk