[ Thursday, October 07, 2004 ]


Military Information and HIPAA: According to this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (short easy registration required), a new wrinkle in the unexpected consequences of HIPAA has been exposed. We've heard about the stories of family members being excluded from information on hospitalized loved ones, but the latest issue is the military's refusal to release information on wounded and injured soldiers. My favorite quote from the article: "A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), one of HIPAA's chief architects, said the senator never intended the law to keep Americans from learning about casualties in important military missions like the current war on terrorism." What, unintended consequences to HIPAA? Oh, pshaw.

I found this article particularly interesting because during the initial stages of the war in Iraq, I signed up to get the Department of Defense's news e-mail service, which includes casualty reports. In fact, I just got one a few minutes ago. Here it is:

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 1000-04
Oct 07, 2004
Media Contact: Army Public Affairs - (703) 692-2000
Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who
was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Staff Sgt. James L. Pettaway Jr., 37, of Baltimore, Md., died Oct. 3 in
Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, of injuries sustained in
Fallujah, Iraq, on Aug. 27 when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Pettaway was assigned to the Army Reserve’s 223rd Transportation Company,
Norristown, Pa.
For further information related to this release, contact Army Public
Affairs at (703) 692-2000.

[Web Version: http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2004/nr20041007-1360.html]
-- News Releases: http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/
-- DoD News: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/dodnews.html
-- Subscribe/Unsubscribe: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/dodnews.html#e-mail
-- Today in DoD: http://www.defenselink.mil/today/
-- U.S. Department of Defense Official Website - http://www.defenselink.mil
-- U.S. Department of Defense News About the War on Terrorism -

Actually, a closer reading of the Journal Sentinel article also shows that the general condition of the soldiers is reported, but specific information is not. Kennedy and his surrogates say the military is not providing the information to hide bad news about the war (sending e-mails like the one above doesn't look much like hiding to me). The military guys say (i) we're just following HIPAA and giving soldiers the same protection any hospital patient ought to get, (ii) Kennedy and the other lawmakers could've written the law to prevent this problem, and (iii) Kennedy's statements are just election-year politics.

Jeff [11:47 AM]

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