Proposed Health Code Changes Seek to Balance Privacy With Healthcare

Lyla Katz

SACRAMENTO — Proposed changes to California’s Health and Safety code seek to balance privacy concerns with access to healthcare for people with HIV.

The California code currently requires the disclosure of patient's HIV tests results to a handful of entities including certain government agencies, the patient’s attorney, medical emergency responders and those who handle donated body parts.

While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, protects the confidentiality of reported AIDS cases by making unauthorized disclosure illegal, the law in recent years has become a barrier to delivering healthcare services to the very people it was meant to protect.

"This bill tries to find a way to keep the privacy screen in tact, while allowing the people who need the healthcare to get the services they need," Bonnie Lowenthal's spokesperson Will Shuck told XBIZ. "Laws that were enacted to protect people's privacy are now preventing people from getting access to healthcare."

“We absolutely have to protect people’s privacy,” Bonnie Lowenthal said. “But we also have to make sure that people get the healthcare they need and deserve.”

To strike that balance, AB 2590 provides very strict access to health data, and limits it only to healthcare providers, like AIDS Healthcare Foundation, that contract to deliver Medi-Cal services on behalf of the state. The information would not be available to employers, insurers or anyone else.

“We’re keeping the door closed pretty tight,” Lowenthal said.

Essentially the bill would simply make it easier for providers like AIDS Healthcare Foundation to contact people who might benefit from their services.

"The provider that is working with the state to provide these services is highly regulated by the state and under strict guidelines so that no other entity is allowed access to these medical records," Shuck said.

Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation, or AIM, spokeswoman Brooke Hunter, told XBIZ that they are working through the proposed legislation and will have more information soon on what it will mean for adult performers.