Partnership urges HHS to revise privacy provisions

Partnership urges HHS to revise privacy provisions

In an April 28 letter, the Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2 urged U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to quickly issue changes to rules to patient privacy, according to the CARES Act.

The partnership, made up of more than 30 mental health, addiction, and health care organizations, seeks to modernize information laws to help stop the opioid crisis.

The amendment would allow doctors treating those with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) to see a patient’s medical history, currently prohibited under HIPAA. The provision was written into the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, but so far has not been enacted.

According to the letter, the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to increase the number of Americans with SUD. Participants in the partnership, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, said removing roadblocks to SUD patient care was imperative.

“While the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), prior to the passage of the CARES Act, issued guidance suspending the prohibitions on use and disclosure of patient information under Part 2 for medical emergencies, more specificity will be needed to implement the flexibilities provided by the CARES Act,” the letter said. “Additionally, it has been reported that opioids may be used during the treatment of some patients with COVID-191, making it paramount that physicians have access to all patient records, especially SUD records, to formulate appropriate treatment plans. We believe HHS can use the SAMHSA guidance as a stepping stone when revising the Part 2 rule and we encourage HHS to act quickly to update the Part 2 rule to ensure patients with SUDs do not experience a disruption in their care.”

The work to update the regulations began after 30-year-old Jessica Grubb died from an overdose. Grubb was recovering from SUD when she underwent surgery for a running injury. The discharging doctor prescribed oxycodone to her, and she returned home with 50 oxycodone pills. She died of an overdose shortly after. Advocates of the change to patient privacy laws say that if the doctor had known about her substance use history, he could have provided her with a different drug.