1601 N. Tucson Blvd. Suite 9
Tucson, AZ 85716-3450
Phone: (800) 635-1196
Hotline: (800) 419-4777
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc.
A Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943
Omnia pro aegroto


Your Action Needed by 6/15/01

Doctors Could Be Imprisoned for Routine Use of Patient Information.

AAPS has issued a number of alerts about the death of patients' privacy if the federal rules written by HHS under HIPAA go into effect. But as we consult with more experts, we're finding out more about these regulations will be applied to physicians -- and none of it is good news.

For example, doctors could go to federal prison for using a patient's history to treat him.


We've already told you that doctors could be forced to withhold treatment from patients if they refuse to give blanket consent for use of their medical record. But it gets worse.

After April, 2003, it will be a federal crime to use covered medical information for any purpose-such as treating a patient- without a federally approved consent form. There are huge fines and prison terms for each and every incident.

If a referring doctor sends you a letter, you can file it, but you may not use the information until the patient comes in and signs a proper consent. (Your usual consent forms will probably have to be discarded; if they mention use or release of information, they are in violation of federal law. You'll need a separate form for medical information.)

If an ambulance driver tells you something, and it's a true emergency, you may use that information-providing that you get the consent later, or document why that is impossible.

These are a few of the details that we learned last week at the Chicago meeting of AAPS, "Private Practice in the Information Age -- Taking CONTROL of Your Practice."

Everybody thinks HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or Kassebaum-Kennedy) was supposed to protect against unauthorized release of information. Surprise! The emphasis is now on use.


It's the AMA who told President Bush to go ahead and implement these abominable regulations. That's even though Secretary Thompson was prepared to put the whole mess on hold after AAPS created a grassroots groundswell of opposition -- even overloading the HHS email server with tens of thousands of calls for a delay.

The provisions requiring patient consent for use of information were added to the proposed rule at the AMA's behest, and the AMA has been absolutely adamant about keeping them, according to HIPAA legal expert, Donna Boswell, Esq., partner at Hogan and Hartson LLP in Washington D.C.


When an AMA delegate asked an official of a large state medical association about this, the official denied it.

So we went to the AMA web site and did a search. The AMA's letter to Margaret A. Hamburg, Asst Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, HHS, Nov.3, 1999, spells it out.

Go to http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/article/4118-4153.html and see for yourself.

On page 4 of 44, the AMA advocates applying the standards to records in all forms, not just electronic format.

On p. 8 of 44, it even highlights the phrase "valid consent should be obtained before personally identifiable health information is used for any purpose."

Why could this be? Does the AMA want to supplement its lagging dues income by selling compliance advice? See the new feature on the AMA web site entitled "HIPAA Headaches."


1. Call or email your Member of Congress TODAY and demand that he cosponsor or support HJ 38, which repeals these disastrous Clinton-Shalala rules under the Congressional Review Act.

HJ 38 must be passed before June 15 (or else be introduced as a bill that will face the formidable blocking powers of the Kennedy-Clinton forces before getting to the Senate floor).

The Capitol Hill switchboard is (202) 224-3121.

2. Call Speaker Dennis Hastert and demand that he place HJ 38 on the calendar immediately.
(202) 225-2976, fax (202) 225-0697, or [email protected]

3. Sign a petition to Representative Hastert demanding that he take action on this resolution.

4. Ask the AMA, either directly or through your delegates or component associations, what the story is.

Demand that AMA officials either --publicly defend their advocacy of criminalizing the normal practice of medicine, or -- publicly repudiate their comments and urge the President to stall the regulations, and Congress to pass House Joint Resolution 38.

5. Forward this message to your entire list. Call talk shows. Post the message in your office for your patients. (We have a "printer friendly" flyer available)

They need to know that these regulations do nothing to protect their privacy (in fact, they are a bonanza for marketers and carte blanche for government) and will totally disrupt the practice of medicine. They won't even be able to send a friend to pick up a prescription without hassles.

We have one week to get the word out -- act today!

Executive Director
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons

Other Links: