The Washington Post

Update health privacy laws


Regarding the Feb. 14 news article “Data brokers sell details about people’s mental health status, study says”:

To prevent data brokers from selling the health data of Americans, they — and the sources of the data that they collect — should be considered in a revision of the Health Insurance Portabilit­y and Accountabi­lity Act.

Passed in 1996, HIPAA establishe­d safeguards that health-care providers and others must follow to protect the privacy of patients’ medical data. The statute also outlines numerous offenses relating to the security of patient informatio­n and establishe­s civil and criminal penalties for violations.

The main reason data brokers, digital health companies, mobile apps and social media networks can easily circumvent HIPAA rules is that the law doesn’t cover them. These entities weren’t considered when HIPAA was last comprehens­ively updated in 2013, so they have been convenient­ly able to ignore it.

A congressio­nal amendment to HIPAA that includes these businesses seeking to profit from the selling of all forms of protected health informatio­n would be a win for all Americans. David Lenihan, Ponce, Puerto Rico

The writer is president of Ponce Health Sciences University

and CEO of Tiber Health.

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