[ Thursday, May 11, 2006 ]


911 Calls to EMS: The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that 911 calls to a government-run EMS service do not have to be provided to journalists under Open Records rules since they are protected under HIPAA. Louisiana Secretary of State Fox McKeithen suffered a paralyzing fall at his Baton Rouge home and three calls were placed to the Baton Rouge city-parish 911 service. Mr. McKeithen, who was rendered a quadriplegic by the fall and has since passed away, was alone at the time, so presumably the calls were made by him. Several news organizations requested that the city-parish EMS service release the content of those calls, but the EMS refused, citing HIPAA. The news organizations sued, but the courts apparently held that (i) the EMS is a "provider" and covered under HIPAA, (ii) the content of the 911 calls contained PHI, and (iii) HIPAA prohibits the disclosure, despite the open records law.

This (health information in government hands) is the primary area where the HIPAA preemption and the "otherwise required by law" provision collide, and where more guidance is needed. I haven't had a chance to review the Louisiana Supreme Court opinion yet, nor do I know much about the particulars of the Louisiana public records laws, but this result, at least, tracks the result the Texas Attorney General reached in his opinion regarding whether governmental entities are subject to HIPAA. AG Abbott relied on some loose language in the Texas Public Information Act regarding "personal" information to determine that government-run ambulance services or public hospitals my refuse to provide PHI to newspapers, even though the PHI is a "record" of the public entity and public entities are generally required to make their "records" available to the public.

Hat tip: Marc Goldstone at Tenet (in sunny south Florida).

Jeff [10:18 AM]

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