New Privacy Rules May Provide Boost For IT Companies

Information technology companies are salivating at the prospect of tens of billions of dollars’ worth of business, now that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules have taken effect. And for all the whining about HIPAA from providers and payers, there are reports that a growing share of them are beginning to see the value of it in long-term savings.

Meanwhile, a General Accounting Office report suggests that HIPAA could cause headaches for pharmacists who don’t usually get patient consent before filling a prescription. In their strictest sense, the HIPAA rules require consent before any patient-health information is released, including when pharmacists transmit claims to insurers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says that amendments to clarify HIPAA’s intent — and thus remove unnecessary obstacles to coordination of care or payment to providers — will come soon.

In other D.C. developments: Georgia Republican Rep. Charles Norwood says President Bush has “had long enough” to develop a patient-rights bill, and will file his own. It will mirror Senate legislation sponsored by John McCain and Ted Kennedy…. When Congress set aside extra money for Medicare+Choice plans late last year, the Health Care Financing Administration gave M+C plans that quit Medicare as of Jan. 1 a chance to re-enter the program when the higher rates kicked in on March 1. Since then, only four plans have come back.

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