Communique 10-10-2020 "Via The Request Line: HIPPA!"
By Philip Drucker
For those of you who do not know I do requests, I do. Today’s request is to address the contradictory information going around the Internet, social media and news media in general regarding the President’s refusal to allow his personal physician Dr. Sean Conley, to release his medical history as it relates to his treatment for the Covid-19 virus, specifically as it relates to the diagnosis and condition of his lungs. Let’s start at the beginning.
In 1996 President Bill Clinton signed into law the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to allow for additional privacy protections related to unauthorized releases of personal, medical information from certain but not all health care providers without their consent.
The privilege is held by, and therefore waivable by the patient. In this instance, the patient is the President of the United States of America and the question is, or at least been repeatedly posited as does his status effect his rights to claim HIPAA privileges?
Or, to put it another way, does the health of a sitting president, one infected with a deadly virus who is almost certainly contagious and is visibly in medical distress, “roid rage” tweeting out of control, and refusing to wear a mask in public, apparently back in the Oval Office, refusing to self-quarantine as of this morning, declaring himself “cured”, and is therefore the very definition of a walking super spreader, have an obligation to the American public to tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about his medical condition? My position is yes.
Granting the obligatory, he is a person and entitled to the same rights as any citizen, in Trump’s case when it is also convenient to do or claim so, the privilege is certainly not absolute, and as this is to my knowledge the first time a sitting president has claimed the privilege, there is much precedent as well as common sense (and decency) that tells you at a minimum, he mostly likely cannot, and in any event, should not.
Firstly, there is a black-letter exception to HIPAA that does not need the patient’s approval and seems to be “on point”. (See 45 CFR § 164.512 - Uses and disclosures for which an authorization or opportunity to agree or object is not required.) Contained within this section is an exception for the prevention or lessening of a serious and imminent threat “to the health or safety of a person or the public.” I’m good to go on this one. Why? Because I’m not stupid? And being honest mostly because I don’t know why we keep kowtowing to Trump and his outrageous demands.
I have often said when is someone going to tell him no? This would seem to be a good time to start before he infects and kills everyone in the White House. Two words. National Security. Are we done? We should be.
Further, there is a general exception for disclosure to people who need to know. Are you satisfied that all the American public needs to know he is a lunatic (we already knew that) and contagious? That we have been warned not to come into contact with him personally and that alone removes the “public threat”? C’mon now, seriously?
Now this is not to argue that presidents from both sides of the aisle have tried, some successfully and some not, to hide their medical conditions from us to assure us the president is at all times strong and healthy as a bull moose, so to speak, or at least so said Teddy Roosevelt.
But, somehow with Trump I think he’s already worn out the I don’t want to panic anyone by downplaying the serious and severity of the situation to the point people have died, and, indeed, in this instance, continue to do so. Don’t you?
In conclusion, I posit the following. When did it become OK for the President to hide behind a Federal statue clearly not contemplated for this situation and lie about or at best withhold vital information from the public we have a right and a need to know? And all this from the self-proclaimed ringmaster of the most transparent administration of all time?
My answer is no. But then again, I seem to be the only one around here that is willing to tell the president no. So, for now, it’s still how low can he go? The answer with this president, as always, is as far as we let him, until we finally, perhaps at the ballot box tell him, once and for all, no.
PS: When it comes to the NDAs the doctors may or may not have signed? Trump is a public servant. He works for us, we don’t work for him. He doesn’t understand his role in government, and they are useless. Someone should tell him that too.
PSS: Have a Request? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or, via a self- addressed stamped elephant, or hippo as the case may be.
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