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February 08, 2009 12:24 PM

Privacy, a core element in the workers’ compensation system, is rapidly become a thing of the past. Both the State and Federal governments have not considered it a key ingredient in the program.

States, in their to conversion to electronic claims record keeping, have eliminated privacy. The State of California electronically released workers’ compensation claim data concerning Nadya Suleman, the mother who gave birth to eight babies last week. This was after months of complaints by claimants and attorneys that the California electronic claims system was flawed.

Likewise the Federal law, HIPPA [The Health Care Personal Information Non-Disclosure Act of 1998] governing medical records specifically excludes workers’ compensation medical information. Final Health Insurance Privacy Regulations that were published by the Department of Health and Human Services on December 28, 2000, establishing standards for privacy of individually identifiable health information records eliminate privacy in compensation claims. While the regulations cover health plans, health care clearinghouses and certain other providers who use computers to transmit claims information, workers' compensation insurance carriers are exempted.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee has recently recommended the Congress and health agencies develop a new approach to protecting privacy in health research. In a 316 page report released by their Committee on Health Research and the Privacy of Health Information it concluded that HIPPA does not protect privacy.

As the country embarks on a new economic recovery program, including national health care, the Federal government must rebuild the national system of workers’ compensation system. Privacy should not be thrown out the windows when administering a workers' compensation benefit delivery system.

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