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Minnesota Legislature

Bill allowing for easier sharing of health records advances in House

ALS Association Board Member Mark Buermann testifies before the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee March 8 in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Nick Zerwas, right, that would modify provisions in the Minnesota Health Records Act. Photo by Andrew VonBank

A health records bill would change just three lines of existing law, but caused more than an hour of debate Thursday.

Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River) brought HF3312 before the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee. The bill would adapt Minnesota privacy law to federal law in order to make it easier for health care providers to share patient records with each other and with related entities, such as insurance carriers. The providers wouldn’t need patient consent to release records in certain instances as they do now.

It was approved on a split-voice vote and sent to the House Civil Law and Data Practices Policy Committee.

Zerwas pointed out that that the Minnesota Health Records Act was written before the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more commonly known as HIPAA.

More than $90 million a year could be saved by switching to the more modern standard for 50 percent of emergency room visits alone, Zerwas said. It would put Minnesota’s privacy laws on par with 48 other states. Concerns from opponents that his bill would weaken patient privacy are unfounded, Zerwas said.

“We will not be repealing privacy protections,” Zerwas said. “That’s fake news. That’s fake news, members.”

Zerwas wryly said he recently made his yearly deductible because he had to undergo the same cardiac related-test three times — the providers he went to couldn’t share data with each other.

However, the jokes stopped when Zerwas got into a testy exchange with a DFL committee member.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) said there are already specific exemptions in state law for records sharing in emergency circumstances, and it is important not to let emotion dictate health care policy.

“You’re not throwing out the whole [MHRA], you’re just making a huge hole in it,” Liebling said.

Zerwas responded by saying he knows Liebling does not believe the existing act contributes to a great deal of problems, but his bill’s numerous supporters disagreed with her.

That did not sit well with Liebling.

“Rep. Zerwas … it makes me uncomfortable when you tell people what I believe, because I think you misstated what I’m saying,” she said. “And the idea that we should all do something because other people say we should, I fundamentally reject that.”

The Senate companion, SF2975, is sponsored by Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) and awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee.

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