Halloween isn’t the only time people have trouble identifying others. Sometimes in the hospital, medical records get mixed up, and you can’t tell one Joe Smith from another. Obviously, this can have dangerous results for Joe Smith who is, say, suddenly misdiagnosed as a diabetic because the Other Joe Smith is a diabetic. Recognizing this dangerous situation for patients, Congress included a mandate in the 1996 HIPAA law that HHS create a unique patient identifier (“UPI”) so every Joe Smith would have their own number — like a social security number — but just for healthcare purposes. Before the HIPAA UPI rule went into effect, Rep. Ron Paul (then R-Texas), the father of Senator Rand Paul, (now R-Kentucky) introduced a funding ban that prohibited the agency from using funds to build the identifier. The language for banning a UPI has been inserted into every Congressional appropriations bill for the last 20 years, even after Congressman Paul left office because his son, Senator Paul, also believed that a UPI is an invasion of patient privacy. Efforts by CHIME and coalitions like Patient ID Now have lobbied for the UPI ever since and finally made some headway just now. On October 19, 2021, the Senate appropriations committee dropped the ban on using federal funding to create a UPI in the latest Labor-HHS budget. Congress must vote on these bills by December 3rd or resort to another stop-gap funding measure so the government doesn’t shut down — but maybe by the winter holiday season, we will finally be able to stop acting like it is Halloween in hospitals.
October 29, 2021 | 2 min read
October 29, 2021
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