Feb. 12, 2009 - Markey: Privacy Protections In Recovery Package Will Help Protect Medical Records

Lawmaker Authored Key Provisions Included In Economic Recovery Package

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-chairman of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus and author of important privacy provisions included in the economic recovery bill, today hailed the inclusion of strong health IT privacy safeguards in the conference report on the economic recovery package.

"I am thrilled that the final bill includes vital privacy protections for patients' electronic medical information, including a provision that I authored to keep consumers' medical records safe from prying eyes," Rep. Markey said. "Our medical records are among the most sensitive information we have about ourselves, so it is essential that health IT systems have strong protections to protect patients' privacy. The health IT infrastructure funded by this bill will help improve medical care, reduce costs and reduce medical errors."

During consideration of the recovery package in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Markey attached an amendment to require that patients' medical records be made indecipherable to unauthorized users when the information is transmitted in the health IT systems funded in the bill and stored on removable devices such as laptops, flash drives and similar items.  The Markey language was incorporated in the final version of the bill.

In February 2008, Rep. Markey introduced H.R. 5442, the Technologies for Restoring Users' Security and Trust (TRUST) in Health Information Act of 2008, a bill both to promote the development of an interoperable health IT infrastructure for storing and sharing electronic medical records and ensure that these records are protected from unauthorized use or disclosure.  The TRUST Act contained several of the significant health IT privacy and security requirements for patients' electronic medical records. These requirements were subsequently incorporated in the health IT portion of the economic recovery and reinvestment legislation that will be considered shortly by Congress. For example: 

·        The requirement that patients are notified if their medical records are exposed to unauthorized use as a result of a security breach.

·        Limitations on marketing to patients without their permission.

·        The mandate that covered entities maintain audit trails of their disclosures of patients' medical records so that patients can receive an accounting of who has viewed their personal health information.

·        Enforcement of the health IT provisions by the states' attorneys general.    

"In addition to creating millions of jobs and investing in important priorities such as the modernization of our health care system, the economic recovery legislation strengthens fundamental medical privacy requirements.  I look forward to continuing my work on this vital issue with my colleagues in Congress and the Obama administration as we move forward," Rep. Markey concluded.

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February 12, 2009

  CONTACT: Daniel Reilly 202-225-2836