October 29, 1999: Protecting the Privacy of Medical Records


"Every American has a right to know that his or her medical records are protected at all times from falling into the wrong hands. These standards represent an unprecedented step toward putting Americans back in control of their own medical records."

President Bill Clinton
Friday, October 29, 1999

Today, at the White House, President Clinton unveiled a landmark set of privacy protections for medical information stored or transmitted electronically These protections, which the President is proposing because of Congress's failure to act, give consumers more control over their health information; set limits on the use and release of health records and ensure their security; establish accountability for inappropriate use and release; and balance public responsibility with privacy protections. The President noted that, because his regulatory authority is limited, comprehensive federal legislation is urgently needed, and called on Congress to enact broader privacy protections without further delay.

Unveiling Safeguards for Sensitive Health Information. The new regulation being unveiled today:

Urging Congress to Enact Comprehensive Legislation. These important new protections are a critical first step a step the President is taking because Congress has failed to act in the three-year timeframe it gave itself in 1996. But the President's administrative authority is limited by statute, and comprehensive federal privacy protections are urgently needed. Today's regulation, for example, does not cover all paper records. Nor does it directly regulate many entities, including employers, other insurers, or public health agencies. Federal legislation is also needed to fortify the penalties and to give citizens the right to hold health plans and providers directly accountable for inappropriate and harmful disclosures of information. President Clinton called on Congress to finish the job and enact the comprehensive protections that the American people want and need.

October 1999

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