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Ranking Member Cassidy Outlines Proposals to Improve Americans’ Health Data Privacy in New Report

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a report outlining ways to improve privacy protections for Americans’ crucial health data. This comes after Cassidy requested information from stakeholders last year on how to enhance health data privacy protections covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) framework, in addition to considering privacy protections for new sources of health data. In the report, Cassidy outlines several proposals to modernize the HIPAA framework, safeguard health data not covered by HIPAA, and how to consider data that cannot be clearly defined as health or non-health.   

While HIPAA has been effective at protecting patient information for over 20 years, it has not kept pace with new technology and innovative tools that are now an essential aspect of health care. In the responses to Cassidy’s request for information (RFI), stakeholders emphasized the need for updates to HIPAA so patients’ information can be properly protected in a digitized health care system.  

This report also addresses how to consider protections for health data not covered by the HIPAA framework, such as information gathered through wearable devices and personal health applications. As more patients continue to take advantage of these consumer tools, it is essential they feel confident that their data is protected.  

Additionally, the report examines how to treat data that operates in a gray area where more clarity may be needed, such as financial and geolocation data. While this information may have a connection to health care, it is not typically treated as such. Cassidy urged relevant committees of jurisdiction, including the HELP Committee, to work together on addressing these topics as part of any broader privacy reform efforts to ensure all Americans’ information is protected. 

“As technology proliferates and health data interoperability increases, we have greater opportunity to improve care and patients’ access to their health information,” wrote Dr. Cassidy. “Yet, increased access can lead to increased vulnerability for inappropriate data disclosures and a greater pool of data for hostile actors to exploit for nefarious purposes.” 

“The digitization of sectors of our economy, not just in health care, have led to broader calls to create comprehensive data privacy frameworks...Yet to date, the United States does not have a comprehensive data privacy law; Congress needs to act to fill this gap,” continued Dr. Cassidy. “As Congress examines data privacy, the health care sector will need to play a distinct role with distinct considerations. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP Committee), of which I am Ranking Member, will need to be at the forefront of this work.” 

Read the full report here


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