"HIPAA was never intended for the digital age, because the 1996 HIPAA law never anticipated the emergence of Web-based records." -- David Brailer, former national coordinator for Health Information Technology

"Before increasing federal spending on health IT, Congress should first fix the already-outdated 1996 HIPAA privacy rule to ensure individuals have control over their personal health information," said Sue A. Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom (IHF). "Right now, the HIPAA privacy rule has too many loopholes to ensure true patient privacy."

IHF in a release, said t hat if President-elect Obama creates electronic medical records for most Americans (as he's proposing) without first fixing the federal health privacy rule (to ensure patient consent), everyone would end up losing control over his or her personal health information. That's because the rule gives many entities the legal authority to share information without patients' consent for purposes related to healthcare treatment, payment, and overseeing the healthcare system. (See "What Every American Needs to Know about the HIPAA Medical Privacy Rule.)

Obama, continued the release, is seeking support for a massive emergency spending package, warning that the U.S. recession could stretch on for years unless such steps are taken. A January 8 Reuters report noted that "Obama also wants to spend to help the healthcare industry create electronic medical records. Well over $100 billion could be spent on the various [electronic medical records] projects." CNNMoney.com reports that Obama's "audacious plan" is to "computerize all health records within five years." Obama would thus be advancing the health IT goals of the Bush administration. Its last budget set access to electronic health records as an objective to be achieved by 2014.

Moreover, the current HIPAA law would govern a nationally linked database, said IHF. "HIPAA was never intended for the digital age, because the [1996 HIPAA law] never anticipated the emergence of Web-based records," according to David Brailer, former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The bottom line is that Obama's spending plans may impinge on your privacy, concludes IHF. There's a lot at stake with electronically transferring health data and paying claims within the $2.2 trillion healthcare industry. Concerned Americans should voice their concerns to their members of Congress and to Barack Obama.