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How COVID-19 Could Erode Health Care Privacy Protections (Guest: Twila Brase)

April 13, 2020

In the interest of controlling the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., the federal government has taken steps to remove barriers to private medical records.

Americans want to put COVID-19 behind them, but at what cost?  Under the CARES Act, lawmakers eliminated a rule that requires patient opt-in for the sharing of data for a subset of consumers, those with substance abuse disorder.  Twila Brase, founder and president of the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom and author of Big Brother in the Exam Room, says this has been the gold standard for health care privacy protection and should have been the goal for ALL patients.

Before COVID, substance abuse disorder patients needed to authorize each and every time a medical record was shared with an outside party.  Now, one signature will provide broad permission.  Brase says this could easily become permanent and puts privacy protection measures for all consumers back even farther.  Brase also discusses data sharing provisions that have been lifted that allow “business associates” greater freedom to private medical records, how facial recognition technology now being explored in states like Washington can be the norm for implementing more “contact tracing,” and social distancing enforcement. Brase also discusses how coronavirus could push the case even for sharing records under REAL ID, Congress’ effort to create uniformity in government issued IDs.

Toolbox for Patient Privacy Protection and COVID-19

Twila Brase is the president of the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom. @twilabrase
AnneMarie Schieber is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Health Care News, Heartland's monthly newspaper for health care reform. @HCPolicy