Haven’t we had enough snooping into our private records by the government and its agents in the private sector? If you live in Florida, there could be more on the way.
A new Florida law invites snooping into private medical records. The law, enacted as S.B. 1792 and designated as Chapter 2013-108 of the Laws of Florida, went into effect yesterday, July 1. It enables defendants in medical malpractice cases in Florida to contact the health care providers of the victims and demand the unlimited release of personal health information, and all without the victims’ consent. So if you want to file a malpractice lawsuit in Florida and you have any embarrassing information in your medical past, you better be prepared to see it released to the public in an open courtroom.
The geniuses in the Florida legislature and Governor’s Mansion who thought this up apparently want to protect bad doctors, hospitals, clinics, and nurses from the consequences of their negligence.
One little problem for them: their special protection scheme might violate federal law.
Do the initials “HIPAA” mean anything to you? Unless you haven’t been in a doctor’s office or hospital anytime in the past decade, you’ve heard of it. It stands for the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,” and that law requires medical providers to protect patient information and use that information only for treatment, payment, and healthcare tasks. Under HIPAA, your medical providers cannot disclose your private medical records unless they’re subpoenaed, demanded through a discovery request in a civil suit, or through some other judicial order. HIPAA expressly overrides state law, unless the state law grants even more privacy protection than HIPAA.
The Florida law doesn’t provide for any judicial order and doesn’t mandate a subpoena – it just allows the lawyer for the medical provider to harass the victim’s medical provider into turning over the victim’s private records.
Five lawsuits have been filed in state and federal courts in Florida to declare that law invalid. Here’s one of the lawsuits, filed in federal court in West Palm Beach.
And remember that the Founding Fathers designed the civil justice system, in part, to protect us from a government that oversteps its boundaries, violates our rights, and gives special favors to a few at the expense of the rest of us. There’s no reason for Florida to give the defendants in medical malpractice cases a key to open the door to some of our most sensitive personal information.
If you live in Florida, call your state representative and senator and demand that they repeal S.B. 1792 NOW.