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Washington, DC – An official with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management today assured members of Congress that personal health information of individuals covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program will remain private and secure under the Administration’s Health Information Technology initiative.
Dan Green, Deputy Associate for the Center for Employee and Family Support Policy, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia about OPM’s work to guarantee the privacy of personal health information.
“OPM is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that privacy is an integral part of the national health information technology (HIT) initiative,” said Green. “As the administrator of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which covers approximately eight million federal employees, retirees and their dependents, OPM has encouraged plans to adopt health-information technology as another important consumer-oriented initiative. At the same time, we have stressed that the privacy and security of individual health information is of paramount importance.”
Currently, OPM requires each FEHB plan to report on privacy measures that have been implemented, including data from the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set. OPM also has encouraged participating plans to provide information on cost and quality transparency. (This information was prominently displayed on OPM’s 2007 FEHB Open Season website – www.opm.gov/insure - to assist prospective enrollees with making informed health plan choices.)
Most importantly, OPM has instructed carriers to continue compliance with federal requirements that protect the privacy of individually identifiable health information.
Looking forward, OPM will require FEHB carriers to adopt standards for interoperability of health information records in harmony with their adoption and implementation in the
health-care industry. OPM will continue to expand the FEHB website to provide additional information on carriers’ cost and quality transparency initiatives, as well as on health IT capabilities, so prospective enrollees can use the information to make health plan choices for 2008.
“The FEHB Program has always been a market-based program and relies on competition to provide choice and keep costs reasonable,” said Green. “Along these lines, we are encouraging FEHB plans to continue offering insurance options that reward consumers for choices based on quality and cost. And, we will continue to focus efforts on accelerating the use of HIT. We firmly believe privacy and security of personal identifiable health information is important. We are encouraged by HHS’ efforts to address this important issue. We plan to continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Human Service and the HIT Policy Council to ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect consumer privacy rights.”
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