Minnesotans Tell State Health Officials:

Hold a public hearing!

Don't take our medical records or send them to Maine!

Saint Paul/Feb. 25, 2009 - In less than 48 hours, more than 500 people sent letters to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) asking for a public hearing on a plan to seize patient data without consent and transfer it to a data warehouse in the State of Maine where it will be accessible to MDH officials for tracking and analysis, according to Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC).

A state health official contacted CCHC on Monday, confirming that 562 letters were received by the department during the last two days of the public comment period (Feb 9 - 10), each one of them asking for a public hearing.

"We call on the Minnesota Department of Health to hold a public hearing on this intrusive data collection rule. The Minnesota public is completely unaware that their medical records will soon be sent out of state and into the online hands of state government officials. The public has no idea that their data will be used to track them and to interfere in treatment decisions. They have no idea that they are about to lose all consent rights over their most private information," charges Twila Brase, president of CCHC.

Detailed Patient Data
The "encounter data" initiative become law in the last days of the 2008 legislative session after it appeared in the negotiated health care reform bill that emerged from the Governor's office. Patient data to be collected, tracked and analyzed include, but are not limited to:

  • demographics
  • diagnoses
  • treatments
  • doctor's name and national provider identification numbers
  • insurance status
  • insurer
  • financial information
  • service, admission and discharge dates
  • injury codes
  • relationship codes
  • medications, including whether a refill and what date filled

"There was no legislative hearing on this proposal. The public has never had a real opportunity for input. The health department didn't even bother to send out a press release about the public comment period or the one and only meeting they ostensibly held for the public on January 29th," said Brase.

"To top it all off, health officials made sure that, by law, they don't have to even hold a public hearing, no matter how many people ask for one or how many people object to the plan," she added.

Public Objection Squelched. The Minnesota administrative law, Chapter 14, typically requires an agency to hold a public hearing before an administrative law judge on a proposed rule if they get 25 letters from the public asking for a public hearing. But the department's 2008 "encounter data" law calls for "expedited rulemaking." For expedited rulemaking, at least 100 letters are typically required for a public hearing to be held on a proposed rule. However, the 2008 law excluded the 100-letter option, leaving the public with no legal options for redress.

The final data collection recommendations written by the Maine Health Information Center have been published on the health department's website. The Minnesota Department of Health has already announced plans to publish the "encounter data" rule in March, with data collection to begin July 1, 2009.

"Concerned Minnesota residents have already sent in more than five times the number of letters required for a hearing during an expedited rulemaking procedure. What's the emergency? Why did the Department do all it could to keep the public in the dark about this intrusive data collection plan?" asks Brase. "We call on the Minnesota Department of Health to hold a public hearing."

Media Contact:

Twila Brase, President
Phone: 651-646-8935 (office)