AIA Says Insurer Interests Not Addressed in HHS Privacy Materials

According to the American Insurance Association (AIA), the first in a series of guidance materials intended to clarify key provisions of the new federal privacy protections for medical records and other personal health information does not address issues raised by the property and casualty insurance industry.

Bruce C. Wood, AIA assistant general counsel, stated that the current regulations must be changed in order to most effectively address issues raised by property/casualty insurers. He added that the AIA remains concerned about parts of the regulation which the association believes might significantly undermine state regulation of workers’ compensation and disrupt the consideration and payment of claims.

The AIA noted that while the rule has already been published, it remains open because of a procedural error last year. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, having the authority to modify the final regulation, opened a 30-day period for public comments during which time AIA and related organizations submitted comments.

Wood said the AIA is hopeful its concerns will be rectified in a revised rule. Wood also pointed to the “minimum necessary” standard as being particularly troublesome in that it might place health care providers in a position of effectively making a legal determination of the relevancy of information a workers’ comp carrier requires, and raises the issue of federalizing the state-based workers’ comp system.

The AIA added that besides the “minimum necessary” standard, potentially serious problems arise from provisions relating to the new rights of patients to limit and alter their personal health information before a medical provider discloses that information downstream – even to a non-covered entity.