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D.C. Report: Health Information Privacy Summit Gets Heated

June 12, 2012
by Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME
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Privacy Summit Provides Heated Discussion on Use of Health Information At the second International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy, some said that defining privacy should now be a main priority as new health information technologies introduce new privacy issues. With electronic health records, thousands of people’s information can be released with one wrong move according to James Pyles, a privacy lawyer and panelist at the event. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 did not define privacy. In March 2012, the FTC released a report on privacy that offered best practices that gave consumers more control over what is collected about them and how it is used to protect consumers’ personal data.

At the summit, experts discussed how much regulation of health information is too much and how little is too little. In reference to the FTC report and HIPAA, Pyles noted, “They all say, ‘you as an individual do have the right to control your information. Why don't we have principles like that that apply to health information?’” In response to creating a definition for privacy, Marcy Wilder, director of global privacy and information management practice at the Washington law firm Hogan Lovells said, “I'm not sure talking about the definition of privacy is going to get us to where want to go.”

A balance will have to be found between patient privacy and providing good care as health information exchange becomes more prominent. 

CMS Launches New Data Department to Aid Healthcare Change, Make Data More Accessible At the third annual Health Datapalooza, CMS announced the creation of the Office of Information Products and Data Analysis “to make development, management, use, and dissemination of data and information resources a core function of CMS” according to a Health and Human Services press release. This office will help the healthcare industry transition from a fee-for-service based payer to a “value-based purchaser of care.”  In this model, payments will be based on quality of care instead of number of services performed.

The new office will provide the following resources:

  • Medicare Geographic Variation Trend Data:Data from Medicare claims at the state and hospital referral region levels.
  • Medicare Enrollment Dashboard: Information on Medicare enrollment in Part A, B, C and D, and Medicare Advantage.
  • Medicare & Medicaid Research Review:A peer-reviewed online journal.
  • CMS Data Navigator: A search tool that makes CMS data more accessible for research.

The Office of Information Products and Data Analysis will be responsible for overseeing the release of all the data listed above as well as data from insurance exchanges when they launch in 2014.

Read the CMS factsheet here.

Representative Asks HHS Secretary for Expected Sequestration Impacts The Budget Control Act of 2011 is still the law of the land.  So that means that the automatic trigger that was set in motion due to the failure of the super committee is still going to happen January 1, 2013.  In an attempt to highlight how such a trigger would do to budgets within the Department of Health and Human Services, Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) is calling on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to provide a detailed report.  Specifically, Rep. Markey wants to know how the funding cuts will affect medical research and development, access to new medical treatments and other HHS programs.

In his letter, Markey notes that doctors face a cut in Medicare payments of $11 billion in 2013.  And he cites a recent report by Research!America showing that the sequester cuts translate into a $3.6 billion loss for medical research in 2013.  The report also says the Food and Drug Administration faces a prospect of a $200 million budget cut, equating to more than the agency's entire budget for reviewing the safety of medical device applications.  “The health and well-being of every American could be impacted by these automatic cuts,” Markey said.

Negotiations are ongoing between some House and Senate members on ways to protect both Medicare and defense spending from automatic cuts – both of which will see substantial funding declines if alternative legislation is not brought forth before the end of the calendar year.