New federal rules
on medical privacy a lot
like old Hawaii law

By Tim Ruel

The federal Department of Health and Human Services regulation on sharing private information announced yesterday appears to be patterned after Hawaii's medical privacy law, which was passed in 1999 and repealed last year, according to the state Office of Information Practices.

"It's very much like the Hawaii law now," said Director Moya Gray.

Insurers, health care providers and employers had complained that the Hawaii law was confusing, expensive and would duplicate federal law.

In its defense, Gray said Hawaii's law was the first to offer comprehensive consumer protection.

"Ours was the only law that had that model, and we were very active in getting it up to the feds," Gray said.

She is pleased with the new regulation, and said the recent changes will make it less costly to carry out.

"Without these protections, you will find that the market will not move toward electronic commerce."

Hospitals and insurers have spent a lot of time getting ready for the federal rules over the past year and a half, said Cliff Cisco, senior vice president of the Hawaii Medical Service Association. HMSA has put more working hours into the medical privacy changes than it did on the highly publicized year 2000 computer problem, Cisco said.

"We feel like we're pretty much on top of it," he said.

Phyllis Dendle, government relations director for Kaiser Permanente, said she is waiting to review the details of the rules before she comments.

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