ALERT: Congress Approves National Patient ID

May 17, 2017

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Friday, May 5, 2017 was not a good day. Trump signed into law a ‘National Patient ID’ law (2017 Appropriations, H.R. 244, Public Law 115-31) enacted by Congress. Federal funds are now available to develop a “patient-matching strategy”.
 
In April, proponents asked Congress to help build a national patient-matching system – a way around a longstanding prohibition on a National Patient ID. Here’s what Congress passed (the bolded “exception language” is key):
 
 
“For expenses necessary for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, including grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements for the development and advancement of interoperable health information technology, $60,367,000.” (Title II)
 
“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to promulgate or adopt any final standard under section 1173(b) of the Social Security Act providing for, or providing for the assignment of, a unique health identifier for an individual (except in an individual’s capacity as an employer or health care provider), until legislation is enacted specifically approving the standard.” (Title V, Section 510)
 
 
Unique Patient Health Identifier.—The Committee is aware that one of the most significant challenges inhibiting the safe and secure electronic exchange of health information is the lack of a consistent patient data matching strategy. With the passage of the HITECH Act, a clear mandate was placed on the Nation’s healthcare community to adopt electronic health records and health exchange capability. Although the Committee continues to carry a prohibition against HHS using funds to promulgate or adopt any final standard providing for the assignment of a unique health identifier for an individual until such activity is authorized, the Committee notes that this limitation does not prohibit HHS from examining the issues around patient matching. Accordingly, the Committee encourages the Secretary, acting through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS, to provide technical assistance to private-sector led initiatives to develop a coordinated national strategy that will promote patient safety by accurately identifying patients to their health information.
 
Proponents are celebrating:
 
The 1996 HIPAA law requires Unique Patient IDs (UPIs). But in 1998, then-Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) successfully prohibited “planning, testing, piloting, or developing a national identification card,” which was interpreted to prevent a national patient ID. In 2012, when proponents renewed their push, CCHF published a report: “National Patient ID.” In 2014, the CRomnibus Act was the first appropriations bill to exclude the 1998 prohibition, as revealed here. Now the march to a National Patient ID is in full swing.
 
ACTION ITEM: Tell Congress to prohibit this new version of a National Patient ID. There’s no time to waste.
 
We need your support to help us stop this intrusive system. Please consider donating to this critical effort today!
 
Sincerely,
 
Twila Brase, RN, PHN
President and Co-founder