Protect Health Privacy Provisions In Recovery Package

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy:

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Tuesday urged Congress to support critical health information privacy protections included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which the Senate is considering this week. The legislation includes funding for investments and incentives in health information technology.

The increased use of technology and the Internet can help reduce health care costs and increase Americans’ accessibility to health care services. Leahy has advocated important, meaningful privacy safeguards to protect Americans’ most private personal information.

“I have long held the view that American innovation can – and should – play a vital role in revitalizing our economy and in improving our Nation’s health care system,” Leahy said in a Senate floor statement. “The privacy safeguards in the economic recovery package take an important step towards tackling the difficult, but essential task of ensuring meaningful health information privacy for all Americans.”

Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on January 27, held a hearing to examine how best to implement privacy protections in electronic health information systems. The Director of the Vermont Health Care Reform Commission, Dr. James Hester, testified about Vermont’s public-private partnership that is charged with developing Vermont’s statewide electronic health information system. The Commission was created to oversee the implementation of a 2006 health reform law aimed at ensuring and providing affordable, quality health care to Vermonters. The state law included an important privacy policy to secure Vermonters’ personal information.

In past years, Leahy has partnered with other Members of Congress including Senator Edward Kennedy to introduce health privacy legislation, and to include important privacy protections in health care reform proposals.

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