Miami Herald by Elizabeth Koh
August 27, 2019
Florida is planning a major overhaul to its Medicaid program that serves more than 30,000 people with disabilities, and hundreds of Floridians have told the state what they want — and fear — from the change in both an emotional public meeting that ran overtime and comments submitted in writing.
Though administrators at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities asked the public for feedback, it now says those written comments are private health information that needs to be protected from public view.
It argues that parts of those comments — namely the identities of the commenters — are shielded by HIPAA, the federal law intended to protect the privacy of people’s personal health records. They’re also charging hundreds of dollars to read what people said, citing the cost of redacting that information.
HIPAA, or the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was passed two decades ago in part to protect a patient’s medical records with a healthcare provider. Though these comments were submitted as part of a public comment process on a pending public policy — and people who commented in person at a July meeting freely identified themselves — agency officials say that doesn’t matter.