'HIT Promotion Act' action increases

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Privacy is the biggest issue when it comes to crafting a federal law to promote health information technology (HIT) according to speakers during last month’s House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee hearing. It was the first hearing on the Health IT Promotion Act of 2005, which Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) introduced last October. The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he was concerned that existing privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 do not apply to many of the people with access to health records. Johnson and Deal’s bill would establish federal privacy protections that could override the patchwork of state privacy laws. Many of those laws are more stringent than HIPAA and other federal privacy rules, and rules in one state often conflict with those in a neighboring state.

Meanwhile, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is encouraging its members to register their support of the legislation. AHIMA’s Advocacy Action Center has a letter set up that members can simply sign and email to Congress or personalize, if they wish. Almost 1,800 members have sent a letter in support of HR 4157. Visit: https://secure.ahima.org/DC/Login.asp