Thank you for your question. As I have been doing some research on
the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA)
recently, it was of particular interest to me.
As mwalcoff-ga correctly points out, Congress has not been in session
and could not have passed an act. What I think you may be referring
to is the recent issue by the department of Health and Human Services
of the regulations for patient privacy.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Medical Privacy--National
Standards to Protect the Privacy of Personal Health Information
From the press release
Under the new rule:
"Patients must give specific authorization before entities covered by
this regulation could use or disclose protected information in most
non-routine circumstances - such as releasing information to an
employer or for use in marketing activities. Doctors, health plans and
other covered entities would be required to follow the rule's
standards for the use and disclosure of personal health information.
Covered entities generally will need to provide patients with written
notice of their privacy practices and patients' privacy rights. The
notice will contain information that could be useful to patients
choosing a health plan, doctor or other provider. Patients would
generally be asked to sign or otherwise acknowledge receipt of the
privacy notice from direct treatment providers.
Pharmacies, health plans and other covered entities must first obtain
an individual's specific authorization before sending them marketing
materials. At the same time, the rule permits doctors and other
covered entities to communicate freely with patients about treatment
options and other health-related information, including
Specifically, improvements to the final rule strengthen the marketing
language to make clear that covered entities cannot use business
associate agreements to circumvent the rule's marketing prohibition.
The improvement explicitly prohibits pharmacies or other covered
entities from selling personal medical information to a business that
wants to market its products or services under a business associate
Patients generally will be able to access their personal medical
records and request changes to correct any errors. In addition,
patients generally could request an accounting of non-routine uses and
disclosures of their health information. "
Although you asked for a synopsis, if you should actually like to read
the actual text of the rule, it is available at:
Some other sites that may prove helpful to you:
"health insurance accountability and portability act"
I hope that helps!