The new information brush off

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A couple of weeks ago I went to the Health Care Reform Task Force meeting on November 15th, 2012. The reason I went was to find out about possible legislation to do away with Minnesota medical privacy laws.

Our state laws are more protective of privacy for patients with consent and give us greater rights than federal privacy laws. There has been an interest for years by health providers, health plans, and business/professional interests to have our state be “dumbed down” to only have minimal privacy protections and rights.

I saw a letter sent to Commissioner Jesson, Minnesota Department of Human Services, dated October 26, 2012, which asks the Commissioner, Health Care Reform Task Force and the Dayton Administration to consider changes to our state medical privacy laws. I asked some people who represent groups who signed the letter about it and what it means. I got responses from we want to HIPAA’ize Minnesota medical privacy laws, in other words do away with protections and rights for patients and follow federal law. Another person stated we need to change the state law because it is “burdensome and cumbersome”, which means less control of your medical information and who it goes to. Another comment was from one of the largest health providers in the state, we want to consider modifications to change consent provisions.

I asked some members of the Task Force if they were going to pass recommendations that would “dumb down” or do away with our state medical privacy laws. Some said they were concerned, others said we need changes to be able to share medical data with others without consent.

I went to the head staff person of the Task Force to ask about the medical privacy recommendations that the group is considering. The first response was “They’re online.” I said, I did not ask if they’re online or not, but generally what are the recommendations. Again stated directly to me, “They’re online.”

The staff person and I went back and forth, with the person stating that they are online at their website. I then just gave up and indicated to the staff person that the response to a person asking a question could have been much better than saying “They’re online.”

The government agency website is becoming an excuse in some instances for government not to answer questions that we the public directly ask of it. This should not be.