Lawmakers Reintroduce 42 CFR Part 2 Overhaul
Last week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced a bill in both the House and the Senate that would amend federal laws related to the sharing of substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records. The bills (S. 1012/H.R. 2062) would change 42 CFR Part 2, the section of the federal code related to this issue, to align it with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Identical bills have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress but have subsequently failed to pass due to opposition from privacy advocacy groups and a handful of legislators.
42 CFR Part 2 currently prohibits the sharing of SUD treatment records between health care providers without a patient’s explicit consent. Proponents for changing the code believe that making these records easier to share would enhance the coordination of patients’ care across settings. “If substance use disorder treatment is not included in your entire medical records, then they are not complete,” said Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), one of the House bill’s original sponsors. “It makes care coordination more difficult and can lead to devastating outcomes. This bill works to remove the stigma that comes with substance use disorders and ensures necessary information is available for safe, efficient, and transparent treatment for all patients.”
The bill includes a detailed list of restrictions on when and where patient information could be used in civil and criminal proceedings, making clear that these records would be prohibited from being used as evidence or a basis to press charges in criminal cases against patients. However, critics fear it would discourage patients from seeking SUD treatment for fear of facing discrimination or potential legal consequences.
The bill’s future in this legislative session is unclear as the issue remains politically fraught. The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (H.R. 6082 (115)), a version of the bill in last year’s Congress, passed the House but later died in the Senate due to opposition from leadership, and this year’s version may face similar difficulties.