Commission to Propose HIPAA Changes for Opioid Overdoses
HIPAA changes would be necessary for the opioid overdose task force’s expected recommendations to be implemented.
President Trump’s opioid task force is expected to recommend a policy that would inform family members when a person is revived from an opioid overdose.
The proposal would require significant changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and has been met with skepticism by some members of the medical community and advocacy groups.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is leading the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, told reporters Monday he expects the group’s HIPAA reform proposal to be released in the next three weeks, reports nj.com.
“There’s got to be a way that we can let parents and loved ones know when people have been reversed with Narcan…We’ve got to find a way around it,” Christie said of HIPAA’s privacy restrictions.
It’s unclear if the commission will recommend pursuing federal legislation or action from the Trump administration, although Christie said he’s been working closely with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and lawyers with the Department of Justice to ensure that the recommendations are implementable.
HIPAA currently forbids physicians from disclosing when an adult patient has been treated for an opioid overdose, even to the person’s immediate family.
But Christie said overdoses often represent “a cry for help, whether it’s intended to be that or not.”
A Christie aide said the governor had been consulting with parents who lost their children to opioid overdoses. Some of them had no idea their child had previously overdosed because they were 18 or older at the time.
Medical ethicist Arthur Caplan of the NYU Medical School said he supported keeping the privacy laws intact and said if they had to be changed, he’d prefer making overdose disclosures to healthcare providers, not parents, because they’re in the best position to guide someone toward treatment.
“The moral basis on giving up on privacy is that you can provide an intervention,” Caplan said. “The goal here isn’t who knows, it’s who’s going to help the patient.”
Senior policy analyst Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union also suggested that people with someone who is overdosing may be hesitant to call 911 if they know the person’s family will be notified.
The formation of the president’s opioid commission was announced in March. Other members of the commission include Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former Rhode Island congressman Patrick Kennedy and Harvard Medical School researcher Bertha Madras.
The commission will come out with a report including recommendations for combatting the opioid epidemic later this year, although an interim report is expected to be released within the next month.
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