Snowe adviser hopes 2009 is brighter for health IT

Consensus on privacy and security language remains up in the air.

Bill Pewen, the health policy adviser for Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, said Tuesday that privacy language to speed adoption of interoperable electronic medical records still has not been embraced by Snowe's colleagues.

Comment on this article in The Forum.Snowe offered the language in a bill sponsored by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy and ranking member Michael Enzi. Pewen said he hoped 2009 would be "the big year we've been waiting for" with respect to broad healthcare reform, but it is important to get privacy and security language correct.

The latest version of the Senate legislation, which passed the HELP Committee more than a year ago and is expected to be reintroduced in some form in the 111th Congress, includes what Pewen believes is watered-down text that prohibits "piggybacking" of consent for sharing healthcare data but has a loophole for marketing purposes.

"That data is extremely valuable" and must be protected, he told a healthcare privacy and security briefing, noting that a breach notification provision Snowe offered has also lacked support.