There is a lot of conversation being brought up about mental health, lately. This is a good track for our nation to be on, as there are currently many issues that need to be resolved that we have only begun to take a look at. This is particularly important when it comes to the way we decide to legislate future laws, and how to bring about the most effect changes. As of now, there is currently a bill that is being introduced that will greatly affect the way that mental health practices are affected by HIPAA.
Currently the question that is being addressed is whether health care providers will be able to share patient information regarding mental health with the families of the patient, and whether this is really a privacy issue if it is in the best interests of the patient. There are questions of morality that are shown on both sides. Many are concerned mental health patients may not be able to act in their own best interests, and therefore information should be shared with families. On the other hand, others say this could open the door to privacy violations that would further complicate the system.
A new bill introduced by U.S. Representative Doris Matsui is designed to allow healthcare providers with the ability to give mental health information to the families of patients. While the act doesn’t exactly amend the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, it is intended to clarify some of the law’s language to determine what certain exceptions entail, such as cases where it is truly in the best case of the patient. This is an attempt to eliminate certain vagueness, but are there unintended consequences?
Issues that arise
This new bill gives some people pause, as there are definitely concerns. People worry that the cases of whether or not something is in the best interests of a patient still will not be clearly defined, and will depend too much on personal judgement. Without those clearly defined lines, it could leave some healthcare providers at risk of legal action in cases where they had the best of intentions. At the same time, it could protect violating healthcare providers from legal action in cases of abuse. All of this will cost the taxpayers about $5 million a year.
However, if working as intended, $5 million is a very small price for the amount of benefits this could give to the healthcare community, as it mostly goes towards new training and materials. Most professionals in that field seem to agree that this is a very good thing. The bill is supported by the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Disability Rights Network among many other organizations. One thing is for sure, this is definitely an issue that shouldn’t be ignored!