Armey spokesman Richard Diamond told NewsMax.com on Monday that the congressman remained opposed to the rule as written by the Clinton administration and approved last week by President Bush.
The House leader had written to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson last month urging that he either reject or alter the rule that was proposed by then-President Bill Clinton on Dec. 28, during a holiday lull when few were paying any attention.
Diamond told us Armey still intended to work with Secretary Thompson, who has promised to "modify" or "fine tune" the rule over the next several months.
But he won't stand by and wait for the entire "fine tuning" period, which lasts until April 14, 2003.
Armey had told NewsMax.com he was planning to follow up his letter to Thompson with a personal chat, something he says he was unable to get around to before Bush reportedly overruled the secretary and ordered the rule implemented "without delay." Thompson, according to published reports, wanted to delay the implementation past last Saturday's deadline and make some changes.
That visit between the House leader and the secretary may now take place in the near future.
When I pointed out to Diamond that all of Thompson's comments about "modification" and "fine tuning" centered on the question of cost and easier access (suggesting the rule might end up compromising privacy even more than it does already), he acknowledged as much, but said Armey would be working with Thompson to make the desired changes in the other direction.
And if that doesn’t work out "soon," the House majority leader was prepared to gear up for congressional action to close the privacy loopholes and put teeth in the ongoing effort to see to it that your medical records are protected from allowing people to see them who have no business knowing their contents.
Similar efforts are in the works involving pro-privacy organizations.
The Institute for Health Freedom, for example, is going to urge Thompson to do the following:
Sue Blevins, the president of the institute, understands that Thompson's emphasis in fixing the rule has been on the cost factor, but says, for now, she wants to "give them [HHS officials] the benefit of the doubt."
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