The US House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee held a consideration and mark-up session on a bill this week that would allow providers and payers to more freely share the information of patients with substance use disorders, according to Healthcare Finance.
Introduced by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), HR 3545, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, is a bipartisan bill that reforms privacy law to simplify and align 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 2 with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules.
In short, the change would put the protection of substance use disorder records under HIPAA, instead of 42 CFR Part 2, according to Healthcare Finance. 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 also emphasizes protections for records of patients with a history of substance use disorders, maintaining protection against the use of substance use disorder records for criminal proceedings or investigations outside of treatment, payment, and operations.
Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) became the bill’s lead Republican sponsor following Murphy’s resignation from office in 2017.
“In order to responsibly diagnose patients, doctors need to know the whole story about their patient’s medical history,” said Mullin in a statement. “Currently, doctors do not have access to crucial information in a patient’s medical history such as previous treatment for drug abuse and addiction, making it difficult to safely and holistically treat the patient. The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act updates an outdated law to give doctors the whole story on their patient’s medical history and ensure that a patient with a history of opioid abuse isn’t treated with opioids.”
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have both publicly declared their support for the bill, submitting statements to the subcommittee. In its statement, AHIP noted that the bill’s alignment of the records under HIPAA requirements “is an important step toward improving care coordination, patient safety, and health outcomes for patients struggling with opioid addiction and other [substance use disorders].” They went on to note that the current regulations governing the records of patients with substance use disorders, 42 CFR Part 2, “can serve as a barrier to whole-person, integrated approaches to care that produce the best health outcomes for patients.”
An open letter from Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2, a coalition of over 30 healthcare stakeholder organizations, stated strong support for the bill in 2017. “We appreciate the provision in your bill that strengthens protections against the use of substance use disorder records in criminal proceedings,” they wrote. They also noted that the legislation would help these patients receive integrated care. “Separation of a patient’s addiction record from the rest of that person’s medical record creates several problems and hinders patients from receiving safe, effective high quality substance use treatment and coordinator care.”
Sarah Sheber is assistant editor/web editor at the Journal of AHIMA.