ASCO just stated its policy on the privacy of medical records, which is a hot issue in Congress, especially because the House and Senate are in the midst of a conference committee on a financial services modernization bill. Medical records comes up via an amendment to H.R. 10, the House bill. Rep. Greg Ganske, MD (R-Iowa) proposed the amendment, which says that health insurerswho could be part of a banking conglomerate (hence, the inclusion of this amendment)can never disclose a persons medical information to a third party without obtaining his or her explicit approval. But the Ganske amendment includes an exception for legitimate business purposes. ASCO states that insurers should explicitly state in their policies the purposes for which demographic and clinical information will be used, as well as assure that patient-specific information will be available only to providers of care. That statement seems to rule out use of patient information for legitimate business purposes, per Ganske. Julie Taylor, deputy director of policy at ASCO, says the organization has no position on the Ganske amendment.
The Senate bill (S.900) has no medical records privacy provision, and Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), the banking chairman, says he has no intention of including one. But his counterpart, Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa), wants to keep some facsimile of the Ganske amendment in the final bill.