HIPAA no match for Ohio public-records law, court decides

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The Ohio Supreme Court decided in a case last week in favor of the state’s public-records law as overriding HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations that protect medical records. The case involved the Cincinnati Health Department and its unwillingness to give the Cincinnati Enquirer records that pertained to lead-paint hazards, according to an AP report.
   
This is the first time HIPAA has been tested against a state law that conflicted with its powers, and thus could influence decisions in other states.

The court’s ruling indicated that Ohio’s law has precedence due to that fact that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has decided that HIPAA would not override state law.
   
State ex rel. Cincinnati Enquirer v. Daniels reached the state’s Supreme Court after the Enquirer requested two years ago to be sent copies of letters that the city sent to owners of properties where tests had revealed certain children to have high lead levels following blood tests. The newspaper’s intent – which remains so – is to do a report on the progress that has been made remedying the lead hazard in the residences. By the time the case reached the high court, the sticking point remained 173 letters that had been withheld because they included the addresses of single-family homes, and thus the risk existed that children could be identified.