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The General Accounting Office (GAO) handed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor a 14-page report last week that sizes up the practical difficulties health care providers will face in implementing the privacy regulations required by the Health Care Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. But while the report outlines many of the challenges providers face, it offers few prescriptions for solving them.
Aronovitz told the committee that most providers believe the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) addressed many of their concerns in the final draft but still view the regulation as impractical. Even the flexibility offered in the final regulation is seen as creating more ambiguity, according to the GAO.
Chief among the complaints were the requirement to obtain patient consent or authorization prior to using or disclosing personal health information. Also high on the list of concerns is how regulated entities will apply the privacy provisions to their business associates and the fact that more stringent state requirements will continue to pre-empt the federal regulation.
The Chicago-based American Hospital Association recently lobbied HHS to reopen for comment certain portions of the new privacy rules that are scheduled to go into effect Feb. 26.
"The cost and scheduled implementation date for the new privacy rules are overwhelming," Pollack asserted Jan. 31. "Adherence to that compliance schedule will be unattainable for many hospitals, given the extensive changes in overall operations the new privacy rules will require and their high cost."
Those concerns did not fall on deaf ears. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) has called the regulation impractical, but admitted he saw no simple remedies.