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Privacy regulations in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) are the basis of a lawsuit brought against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its secretary, Tommy Thompson, by Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
The regulations, say the plaintiffs, are illegal and "violate the First, Fourth, and 10th Amendments, as well as the Paperwork Reduction and Regula-tory Flexibility Act. Further, HHS failed to promulgate the final regulations within the time period specified under HIPAA."
In a statement seeking declaratory judgments, the physicians’ group states that the regulations "violate the First Amendment because they will chill patient-physician communications by requiring them to be subject to warrantless review by government; violate the Fourth Amendment by requiring physicians to allow government access to personal medical records without a warrant or patient consent and authorize the government construction of a centralized database of personal medical records with personal health identifiers; violate the 10th Amendment because they govern purely intrastate activities by physicians in using and maintaining medical records for patients; violate HIPAA and lack statutory authorization because they regulate medical records other than electronic transmissions, were not promulgated within the time period expressly required by Congress and increase administrative costs; and violate the other act because they impose an immense and unjustified regulatory burden on small medical practices."
The statement goes on to say that the regulations "conflict with a number of state constitutions, such as California and Florida that grant a specific right to privacy. . . . The most heavy-handed aspect is the unprecedented government access to everyone’s private medical records. While masquerading as patient protection, the rules would actually eliminate any last shred of patient confidentiality. They allow government virtually unrestricted access to those same records without a warrant."
Moreover, the statement notes that not only can "doctors be fined or imprisoned — up to $50,000 and for one year — for withholding records, patients can be denied treatment if they refuse to sign the consent form."