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Federal Government Wants To Expand Medical Privacy Laws

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The federal government has proposed expanding rules designed to protect patient health records. The proposal would hold billing companies and other businesses that handle medical information to the same privacy standards as doctors.

— The federal government has proposed expanding rules designed to protect patient health records. The proposal would hold billing companies and other businesses that handle medical information to the same privacy standards as doctors.

The Federal HIPAA law prevents doctors and other medical providers from disclosing patient information without prior consent.

The new proposal would extend those restrictions to customer service contractors and billing companies.

Murray Jennex teaches information security at San Diego State University. He thinks it's a good move.

"It was kind of a hole in HIPAA in that the people who handled the data and collected the data all had regulation, but if you were a third-party biller, you weren't subject to the same penalties," said Jennez. "So they plugged a hole."

Violators of patient privacy laws can be fined up to $50,000 per incident, and up to $1.5 million a year.

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