Patient Privacy, Conversion Therapy & Immunization Laws

MAFP legislative representative Dave Renner, CAE, shares about recent movement in the Minnesota House to improve patient privacy laws, ban conversion therapy and strengthen immunization laws in Minnesota.

Health Records Bill Passes House Committee

Legislation to more closely align Minnesota’s health records law with the patient privacy protections afforded by HIPAA cleared its first committee stop in the Minnesota House. The bill, HF 831 (authored by Representative Laurie Halvorson, DFL – Eagan), was passed with broad bipartisan support and referred to the Judiciary and Civil Law Committee.

The Minnesota Health Records Act (MHRA) predates HIPAA. It requires explicit, bilateral patient consent to transfer records between a patient’s healthcare providers. Testifying in support of the proposal was past MAFP President David Thorson, MD.

Thorson stressed the impact that the misalignment between state and federal privacy protections has on his patients and clinic. The MHRA, Thorson and others argued, complicates care coordination between members of a patient’s care team. Administrative burdens, duplicate testing and delayed care can result from the additional steps required under the MHRA.

Minnesota is one of only two states with a different privacy standard than HIPAA. The bill’s supporters include many in the state’s physician community, as well as healthcare systems, hospitals, business, patient advocates and labor interests.

Conversion Therapy Ban Receives Hearing

A proposal to prohibit the use of “conversion therapy” with minors or vulnerable adults passed the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy Committee. The bill, HF 12 (authored by Representative Hunter Cantrell, DFL – Savage), was referred to the House Commerce Committee.

Under the bill, therapies intended to change an individual’s sexual orientation would be deemed unprofessional conduct and subject to disciplinary action by the practitioner’s licensing board. In addition, the bill bars the use of state funding to reimburse those who provide such therapies under MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance.

Marilyn Peitso, MD, a member of the Minnesota Medical Association, testified in support of the bill. She said, “Conversion therapy presumes that something that is central to a person’s identity is wrong or abnormal. There is no scientific evidence to support a need for conversion therapy, since we are not dealing with pathological conditions. The concept of conversion therapy lacks scientific credibility and clinical usefulness.”

Immunization Bills Introduced

Two bills to strengthen and promote immunizations have been introduced in recent weeks. The bills are authored by Senator Chris Eaton (DFL – Brooklyn Center) and Representative Mike Freiberg (DFL – Golden Valley).

Senator Eaton’s bill (SF 1520) would amend state statute to remove all exemptions to immunizations required for school attendance except for medical contraindications. Minnesota’s current law, considered by public health advocates to be amongst the weakest laws in the nation, allows for exemptions for a parent or guardian’s “conscientiously held beliefs,” an ill-defined standard that allows exemptions for any reason. Senator Eaton’s bill would amend Minnesota’s law to be similar to that of California, a state that acted decisively to strengthen their law in the wake of the outbreak of measles linked to Disneyland.

Representative Frieberg’s bill (HF 1182) would provide funding to the Minnesota Department of Health “to support efforts to address outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases and lower the risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in communities with low immunization rates.” The bill further requires that such education efforts be delivered in the language of the impacted communities and must include the benefits of immunizations; health information about the safety of immunizations; the recommended schedules of immunizations across ages; and information about programs/locations that provide free or reduced-cost immunizations to eligible individuals.

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