A coalition of attorneys general offered support early last week for additional HIPAA protections set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services to keep reproductive health care data safer nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The 21-page letter, addressed to Secretary Xavier Becerra, responds to a request for comment posed by DHHS on April 17 about its proposal to modify the “privacy rule” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 also known as HIPAA and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, or HITECH Act, according to the Federal Register.
It urges the Department to move swiftly towards implementation and apply the fourth month standard compliance date as “existing privacy protections have not kept up with rapid technological advances and fail to contemplate circumstances in which basic health care is subject to civil liability and criminal penalties,” according to the letter.
The additional protections would not only ensure that private health information is not used against people for seeking, obtaining, providing, or facilitating lawful reproductive health care but would give patients confidence that their information will be kept private amidst a climate of uncertainty and fear, the letter stated.
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What did the letter say?
More than a dozen states got the opportunity to address and offer recommendations to strengthen the protections proposed by DHHS.
Since patients and providers were confronted with a “tangled web of bans and restrictions” after the Supreme Court erased almost 50 years of precedent and created significant uncertainty in the state of the law surrounding the provision of reproductive health care, these safeguards could provide patients with more peace of mind as they access reproductive care, the letter stated.
The ruling placed everyone involved in assisting, providing, and obtaining such care at risk of investigation, civil liability, and criminal prosecution, according to the letter.
Some of the key points discussed included the creation of a centralized platform to provide education on reproductive care and privacy right, additional protections against the disclosure of reproductive public health information, and more expansive definitions for reproductive health, person, birth and death.
Since the states believe that patients should not be policed or criminalized for the type of health care they seek, the purpose of avoiding possible ambiguities can protect patients in a “hostile and fragmented reproductive health care landscape,” the letter stated.
To read more about what the coalition wrote in the letter to DHHS, click here.
Who signed the letter?
- Letitia James, New York
- Rob Bonta, California
- Kristin K. Mayes, Arizona
- Philip J. Weiser, Colorado
- William Tong, Connecticut
- Kathleen Jennings, Delaware
- Anne E. Lopez, Hawai’i
- Kwame Raoul, Illinois
- Aaron M. Frey, Maine
- Anthony Brown, Maryland
- Andrea Joy Campbell, Massachusetts
- Dana Nessel, Michigan
- Keith Ellison, Minnesota
- Aaron D. Ford, Nevada
- Matthew J. Platkin, New Jersey
- Raul Torrez, New Mexico
- Joshua H. Stein, North Carolina
- Michelle A. Henry, Pennsylvania
- Charity R. Clark, Vermont
- Joshua L. Kaul, Wisconsin
- Ellen F. Rosenblum, Oregon
- Peter F. Neronha, Rhode Island
- Bob Ferguson, Washington
- Brian L. Schwalb, Washington D.C.