Marc Fisher, a Washington Post columnist, has a column in the Washington Post complaining about how privacy laws are getting in the way of the investigation into the background of the Virginia Tech Shooter. He writes:
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The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) of the DOJ has issued a highly suspect interpretation of the original HIPAA that seriously undermines the enforceability of HIPAA.
Some background: In 1996, Congress Passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Act, at 42 U.S.C. § 1320d-6, provided in part for the protection of medical privacy – although it left the specific details to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish via a rulemaking. HIPAA contained civil and criminal penalties for when:
A person who knowingly and in violation of this part–
(1) uses or causes to be used a unique health identifier;
(2) obtains individually identifiable health information relating to an individual; or
(3) discloses individually identifiable health information to another person