Privacy and security of your medical records: The New Number

The United States government is now discussing how to deal with the computerization of medical records. The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics has been given the responsibility to possibly implement a Unique Individual Identifier (UIF).

A law passed by Congress in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), requires that the Secretary of Health and Human Services adopt a unique identifier for individuals for use in health care.

The purpose of the identifier is to coordinate computerized data concerning individuals and medical conditions, assist in data collection for research and treatment and to eliminate fraud inherent in the medical system.

Serious issues have now emerged as to the privacy and confidentiality of the medical information being collected and who will have access to this vast amount of data. Some are concerned that the information collected will be distributed to insurance companies and employers and that this information will be used against workers in obtaining insurance coverage and employment.

Congress must act by August, 1999 or the Secretary of HHS will be required to promulgate rules for a UIF.

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