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California Laws Protects Patient Privacy

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement on the first fines to be issued by his Department of Public Health under new laws enacted last year to protect private medical information:

“Californians should never have to worry that their private medical information will be improperly shared. Medical privacy is a cornerstone of quality health care. That’s why California has put in place strong patient privacy laws to ensure that hospitals, health facilities and individuals are held accountable for protecting confidential information. This fine should be a reminder that there are consequences for violations of medical privacy.”

The Governor sponsored and signed the following legislation last year related to patient privacy:

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SB 541 by Senator Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) sets health facility fines for privacy breaches and increases the fines for serious medical errors in hospitals. The new law ensured that health care providers face real consequences when they fail to protect patients. For facilities, fines for disclosing private medical information range up to $250,000 per reported event.

AB 211 by Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) requires health providers to prevent unlawful access, use or disclosure of patients’ medical information and hold health care providers and other individuals accountable for ensuring the privacy of patients. The legislation creates the Office of Health Information Integrity within the California Health and Human Services Agency to assess administrative penalties against individuals up to $250,000. The legislation will also refer individuals, if licensed, to appropriate licensing boards.

In 2006, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Executive Order S-12-06 which convened a California eHealth Action Forum. Among its stated duties, the Forum is identifying and developing strategies for the continued protection of confidentiality and privacy of health information in an electronic environment.

In 2004, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 1633 which prohibits businesses from seeking to obtain medical information for marketing purposes without the express consent of the consumer.