Sponsors seek to move on health IT bill

Nancy Ferris writes in Government Health IT:

The leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee joined representatives of the Business Roundtable in calling once again for passage of the Wired for Health Care Quality Act.

Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the committee’s chairman, and ranking member Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) acknowledged that the bill has been stalled by disagreements within the Senate over how to ensure the privacy of electronic health records.

“We are basically stalemated with the privacy provisions in the Judiciary Committee,” led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Kennedy said. He added that he did not expect much, if any, opposition to the bill from the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over some health matters.

Leahy has introduced a strong privacy bill — the Health Information Privacy and Security Act — that Kennedy is co-sponsoring. But Kennedy’s committee has yet to act on it, and he said it is too expensive to win passage.

“Our point is, let’s get it started,” he said, referring to health information technology legislation.

“There will be data security,” Enzi said. “We don’t have to write it into law.” He added that it would be a mistake to put too many privacy and security provisions in the bill.

Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of Verizon Communications, said privacy and security requirements should be established through the standards development process and enforced through third-party certification of health IT systems.

“The issue of security and privacy is easily handled” with current technologies, Seidenberg said.

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Full story – Government Health IT

Comment: I disagree strongly with Senator Enzi: you do have to write security into law. And third-party certification of IT systems is not “enforcement” of either privacy or security, Mr. Seidenberg. And if security and privacy is “easily handled,” Mr. Seidenberg, can you explain why there continue to be an increasing number of breaches reported?

Congress must pass a law with genuine privacy and security protections for consumers. The Wired for Health Care Quality Act is just not yet where a bill needs to be in terms of protections. But more on that another time, when I have to really sit down and write down my comments and thoughts.

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