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HIPAA Regulatory Alert
Companies auctioning customer records
Loophole allows auctioning off of customer records
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) says a loophole in medical privacy law is allowing pharmacies to "auction off" customer records, including prescriptions, information about medical conditions, Social Security numbers, and insurance records "to the highest bidder."
Federal law requires doctors let patients know when their medical history is being shared, he said, but the law allows pharmacies to sell patient information to other pharmacies. Schumer said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Levitt should seek a change in the law requiring pharmacies notify patients before selling or transferring their records and allowing patients to opt out.
Meanwhile, a federal judge struck down a New Hampshire law that would have blocked drug company marketing access to physician prescription information. A Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) analysis said the law would have criminalized collecting and disclosing information about physician prescribing practices.
So far, New Hampshire is the only state to try to prohibit disseminating information on doctors' prescribing patterns. "A handful of doctors seem to think that laws of this sort protect their privacy," said WLF Chief Counsel Richard Samp. "But if more such laws are adopted, the loser will be the American health care system. The information that New Hampshire is trying to ban plays a vital health care role; it is used to monitor the safety of medications, implement drug recalls, and rapidly communicate information to doctors about innovative new treatments."