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Hassle-Free Health Coverage: Medicine and Privacy

The Kassebaum-Kennedy Act set August 1999 as the deadline for Congress to enact federal privacy standards for health care information. If Congress failed to do so, HHS would issue regulations.

The House planned to start with the confidentiality provisions in the Patient Protection Act it passed -- but the Senate killed -- in 1998. Major privacy bills introduced in 1998 would be reintroduced in 1999. Disagreement existed over the extent of pre-emption of state confidentiality laws, the extent to which health data was protected and exceptions for disclosures were crafted, and the degree to which managed care plans could access patient records for normal operations such as utilization review.

While privacy didn't have a big part of the political debate through 1998, some legislative experts predicted opponents of big changes to the health care system would raise it as hurdle in 1999 and beyond.

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