Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is continuing his crusade to prevent members of Congress from lifting a 20-year ban on using federal funding for a unique patient identifier.
Paul has introduced the National Patient Identifier Repeal Act of 2019 in response to recent bipartisan efforts in the House of Representatives to overturn the prohibition.
In June, the House adopted an amendment to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020, that would eliminate the ban.
Supporters of removing the prohibition were hoping the Senate would follow suit. However, Paul was able to keep legislative language banning federal funding for the unique patient identifier in last week’s Fiscal Year 2020 draft Labor-HHS appropriations bill.
“As a physician, I know firsthand how the doctor-patient relationship relies on trust and privacy, which will be thrown into jeopardy by a National Patient ID,” said Paul in a written statement. “Considering how unfortunately familiar our world has become with devastating security breaches and the dangers of the growing surveillance state, it is simply unacceptable for government to centralize some of Americans’ most personal information.”
Paul is calling for a standalone law repealing the original authority to create the National Patient ID under HIPAA, which “established the statutory authority to create a unique health identifier, a distinct ID code to identify the medical records of every individual, employer, health plan, and healthcare provider in America.”
The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives sharply criticized Paul’s introduction of the National Patient Identifier Repeal Act.
“The patient identification conversation is one about saving lives and unlocking the potential for technology to revolutionize healthcare while cutting costs,” said CHIME President and CEO Russ Branzell in a written statement. “Sen. Paul’s arguments are tired and lack a grasp of current reality. They are, to put it mildly, antiquated and from some bygone era. He tried a similar effort during a recent HELP Committee markup, but his ill-fated amendment was met with a resounding defeat by members of even his own party. Our patients deserve better and it is the time to do the right thing. No more excuses.”
Originally, language was introduced to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill in 1998 by Paul’s father—former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)—to restrict the use of federal funds to develop the unique patient identifier, a ban that has been renewed in each subsequent appropriations bill over the last 20 years.