By Terri Jo Neff |
An effort to pass an emergency state law limiting what information can be disclosed about a child’s immunization records and to whom is expected to move forward in the State Senate this week.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has long utilized a Child Immunization Reporting System to collect, store, analyze, release and report immunization data. Identifying information in the system is confidential as per state law, while the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also addresses privacy standards for the electronic exchange of medical information.
The State has also approved Health Current, a non-profit, to serve as the health information exchange organization that connects more than 500 Arizona healthcare entities, including first responders, hospitals, labs and providers of community behavioral health, physical health, post-acute care, and hospice providers.
Senate Bill 1167 was introduced by Sen. T.J. Shope in January to allow Health Connect to “receive, use and redisclose confidential information regarding child immunizations and communicable diseases.” The bill initially passed the Senate’s Health & Human Services Committed last month with bipartisan support, but has received recent pushback.
Critics of the bill argue Health Connect should not be allowed to receive data from the Child Immunization Reporting System unless a parent or guardian specifically opts-in. There is also concern that the data could be used for inclusion in a federal vaccine database or to infringe upon the rights of individuals due to their vaccination status.
Senator Nancy Barto (R-LD15) proposed an amendment to Shope’s bill last Thursday to address those concerns. Her amendment failed, but Shope (R-LD8) then proposed his own amendment without a parental or guardian opt-in provision.
Shope’s amendment was adopted on the Senate Floor. The current language of SB1167 limits Health Connect’s use of confidential child immunization and communicable disease information “to only the purposes permitted by HIPAA privacy standards.”
In addition, the organization would be prohibited from “using or disclosing” identifying information from the childhood immunization reporting system for inclusion in a federal vaccine database. Health Connect would also be prohibited using or disclosing data “for any purpose that serves to discriminate against individuals based on their vaccination status.”
SB1167 would become law effective immediately upon the governor’s signature due to the inclusion of an emergency provision that the legislation is necessary “to preserve the public peace, health or safety.” But to get there, SB1167 needs to clear the Senate and then the House by a two-thirds margin in both chambers.
Several healthcare organizations support SB1167, including Banner Health Arizona, United Healthcare Services, and the Arizona Hospital & Healthcare Association.