Senate Didn’t Support the Lifting of the Ban to Fund the National Patient Identifier

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is banned from expending any of its funds for the creation and launch of a national patient identifier, although there was anticipation that the prohibition will eventually be taken away this year.

The House of Representatives amended its Departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Act of 2020 that lifted the restriction and thus permitting the HHS to continue on this Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) requirement.

It now seems possible that the restriction is going to continue for a minimum of one year as the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee’s draft 2020 fiscal budget bill, revealed last Wednesday, has held on to the text prohibiting the HHS from working on this HIPAA requirement.

The ban was created in 1999 due to issues concerning patient privacy. The restriction was added into the Congressional budget each year since then just like it is listed in the proposed 2020 fiscal budget bill.

The fiscal budget bill proposal declares, “None of the funds made available in this act may be used to promulgate or adopt any final standard under section 1173(b) of the Social Security Act providing for, or providing for the assignment of, a unique health identifier for an individual (except in an individual’s capacity as an employer or a health care provider), until legislation is enacted specifically approving the 13 standard.”

The goal of the national patient identifier is to help quickly and correctly match the patients to their medical documents. Irrespective of where patients acquired treatment, their health information will be linked to them via their distinct national patient identifier code. With the new identifier, patient data can move freely from one healthcare provider to another and it is regarded by numerous healthcare industry stakeholders to be necessary for complete interoperability. Having a national patient identifier will likewise help enhance patient safety and privacy, and get rid of substantial waste and wrong expending in medical care.

For quite a few years, industry groups, for instance, the American Health Information Management Association (AHMIA), the Health Innovation Alliance (HIA) and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), were looking forward to the removal of the ban.

HIA Executive Director Joel White thinks of the prohibition as ‘antiquated’ and mentioned that studies have indicated only half of the patients match with their medical records. This problem can be quickly resolved by a national patient identifier.

Attempts to take away the prohibition have gone up in recent years. This year, 56 healthcare stakeholder organizations would like the Senate to take out the ban. There is substantial progress produced this year as the amendment acquires formidable bipartisan support in the Congress.

Prodding the Senate to take away the ban is more challenging. So long as there are privacy issues, the ban is less likely to be removed. One major concern is a single identifier will be employed to tie medical information to a person from birth to the loss of life, and that may permit unmatched tracking of Americans by means of their health data. It may likewise probably aid the disclosure, use, and exploration of patient information without patient authorization.

Though the draft fiscal budget bill didn’t take away the ban, it is probable that an amendment may be made at a later time. CHIME and AHMIA leaders continue to be positive that the Senate will go with the House’s direction and remove the prohibition this year.

About Christine Garcia 1297 Articles
Christine Garcia is the staff writer on Calculated HIPAA. Christine has several years experience in writing about healthcare sector issues with a focus on the compliance and cybersecurity issues. Christine has developed in-depth knowledge of HIPAA regulations. You can contact Christine at [email protected]. You can follow Christine on Twitter at