Mental Health Privacy Concerns Cause Struggle to Reform Laws


Congress is preparing to tackle substantial mental health reform this fall – and a fight is already brewing over patient privacy.

“Privacy rights advocates say a 1972 law keeps patients’ addiction histories from falling into the wrong hands [42 USC s. 290-dd]. They fear discrimination if the law is altered, and believe patients should have the right to decide who sees their records. … But reformers say the 43-year-old law is antiquated and cumbersome, and makes it nearly impossible to know a patient’s medical history. That hinders the kind of coordinated care stressed by today’s health care payment polices in the interest of lowering costs and improving care.”

Senators Bill Cassidy and Chris Murphy offer a compromise in their legislation. Current law requires patient consent each time drug or alcohol abuse treatment records are shared with a provider. Their bill would change that to a once-yearly consent from patients to share the sensitive information within Accountable Care Organizations, medical homes and certain other integrated care arrangements.

– The House companion package, from Rep. Tim Murphy, does away with consent altogether within integrated care networks. That’s drawing the ire of privacy advocates.

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About Jeffrey Lynne

Jeffrey C. Lynne is a South Florida native, representing individuals and business entities relating to licensing, accreditation, regulatory compliance, business structure, marketing, real estate, zoning and litigation pertaining to substance abuse treatment facilities and sober living residences. Mr. Lynne has been recognized across the region as a leader in progressive public dialogue about the role that substance abuse treatment has within our communities and the fundamental need and right to provide safe and affordable housing for those who are both in treatment for addiction and alcoholism as well as those who are established in their recovery.