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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC Submits Letter to HHS on HIPAA Privacy and Reproductive Health Care Rule


    Gayle Lee, Director, Physician Payment & Quality
    For Media Inquiries

    In a comment letter submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on June 16, the AAMC supported the goal of the HHS Office of Civil Rights’ (OCR) proposed amendments to the HIPAA privacy rule that will enhance provider-patient relationships through heightened privacy protections for information regarding lawful reproductive health care, though noted serious practical obstacles for health care providers to comply with the rule as written. Specifically, the OCR proposed to prohibit the use or disclosure of protected health information (PHI) by regulated entities for either a criminal, civil, or administrative investigation into or proceeding against any person in connection with “seeking, obtaining, providing, or facilitating” lawful reproductive health care or the identification of any person for the purpose of initiating such investigations or proceedings [refer to Washington Highlights, April 14]. 

    The AAMC letter recommended that the rule be amended to require that all requests for PHI for health care oversight, judicial and administrative proceedings, law enforcement purposes, and by coroners and medical examiners be supported by an attestation that the information will not be used or disclosed in connection with a criminal, civil, or administrative investigation or proceeding based on “an individual’s seeking, obtaining, providing, of facilitating reproductive care that is lawful in the jurisdiction in which it is provided.” The letter also pointed out that it will be extremely difficult for providers to determine if reproductive health care delivered in another state at various points in time was lawful, and therefore the HHS should take steps to alleviate that burden. In addition, the letter urged the agency to make resources available when the rule is finalized to assist providers in understanding their rights under this rule and not to penalize providers that are placed in difficult positions by law enforcement entities in the states.