The new stimulus package, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA], fails to protect medical record privacy for injured workers. The new economic recovery package includes an appropriation of $19 Billion for the expansion of electronic health records [EHR] by funding intellectual technology. The legislation fails to include an essential prohibition on the dissemination and misuse of workers' compensation medical records.
The spokesperson for the Center for Healthcare Transformation and the Gingrich Group, stated that, "Privacy cannot be compromised, but neither can we compromise progress in pulling our health care system out of the technological Stone Age," ... "We need to find the right balance between privacy at all costs and progress at any cost."
The legislation should be expanded to protect the privacy of workers’ compensation medical records from misuse use. A coalition of legislators, including Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, expressed deep concerns. Markey stated, "Medical information is probably the most sensitive and personal information that we have about ourselves. Without strong privacy safeguards, a health [information-technology] database will become an open invitation for identity thieves, fraudsters, extortionists or marketers looking to cash in on our medical histories." He further remarked that, "tough privacy safeguards" are necessary to reap the benefits of integrated health databases.
While the EHR is a noble project to increase overall efficiency and economy, the misuse of the data of injured workers remains a deep concern. The open door to this information left by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPA] and ignored by ARRA must be addressed so that the medical records of our working wounded do not become a gold mine for unscrupulous exploitation.