House of Representatives Passes Privacy Law Updates Governing Opioid Abuse Treatment

The House of Representatives today voted by a margin of 357-57 to pass legislation that would enable the appropriate sharing of substance use disorder records by aligning 42 CFR Part 2 with HIPAA for purposes of treatment, payment, and operations.

The legislation, called the Overdose Prevention and Safety Act (H.R. 6082, which was previously known as H.R. 5795), updates the Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Act, which was passed in 1972 and keeps a patient’s substance use disorder (SUD) records separate and segregated from the patient’s general medical record, according to an op-ed written by H.R. 6082’s sponsor, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). The bill is cosponsored by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). In essence, the change would put the protection of substance use disorder records under HIPAA instead of 42 CFR Part 2, according to Healthcare Finance.

As AHIMA notes in its online advocacy center, 42 CFR Part 2 regulates the sharing of (SUD) records, limiting the use and disclosure of such records unless a patient provides his or her written consent. Protecting patients’ confidentiality is of the utmost importance. But because substance use disorders can have a complicated ripple effect on a patient’s health that must be carefully managed and coordinated, Part 2 poses a serious safety threat to persons with SUD because providers are often unaware of the risks to their patient from multiple drug interactions and co-existing medical problems.

The new legislation also includes criminal, civil, and administrative protections for patients during legal proceedings and applies HIPAA penalties to the Part 2 program to ensure patients can seek treatment without fear of their information being shared inappropriately.

And as the Journal has previously reported, while supporters say the move to the less prohibitive HIPAA law will encourage vital record exchange between healthcare entities and providers treating substance abusers, others see this as a hit to patient privacy—essentially undoing 42 CFR Part 2 and the special protections it grants to this extremely sensitive health information.

The legislation is being supported by a broad coalition of healthcare stakeholders, called The Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2.

The bill will now be referred to the Senate for further action.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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