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2005 Testimony

Testimony Before The House Human Services Committee

Clara Sue Price, Chairman

SB 2118 - Confidentiality of information in DHS records

February 9, 2005

Chairman Price and members of the Committee, my name is Melissa Hauer. I am an Attorney for the Department of Human Services and I am here today to testify in support of Senate Bill 2118.

Senate Bill 2118 would amend N.D.C.C. § 50-06-15 which provides for the confidentiality of information maintained by the Department of Human Services. The amendments are designed to more closely conform to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Specifically, this bill provides a definition of “individually identifiable information” based on a similar definition in the HIPAA privacy rule. Senate Bill 2118 also specifies how a vendor, agent or contractor must maintain the confidentiality of individually identifiable information.

Aside from the changes made to accommodate HIPAA, this bill also accomplishes two other objectives: First, it changes the penalty for wrongful disclosure of information under the section from a class A misdemeanor to “the penalty provided in section 12.1-13-01”, which is a class C felony. This change was made to conform to the changes proposed by House Bill 1036 which was introduced at the request of the Judicial Process Committee in order to standardize the penalty for release of confidential information. Since Senate Bill 2118 encompasses the changes being made in House Bill 1036, but contains additional changes specific to the Department of Human Services, I ask the committee to assist in assuring that the provisions of this bill are incorporated into the provisions of section 8 of House Bill 1036.

Second, this bill would amend N.D.C.C. § 50-06-15 to clarify that the Department may disclose an individual's Social Security number in the administration of its programs. A change was made to the Open Records Law during the 2003 legislative session to provide that social security numbers are confidential but can be released pursuant to a specific state or federal law. This bill would clearly provide the Department with the ability to disclose individuals' Social Security numbers in the administration of its programs.

I would also like to offer the attached proposed amendment to the bill to clarify subsection four. The amendment would change that subsection to read: “Any person who discloses, authorizes, or knowingly permits, participates in, or acquiesces in the disclosure of any confidential information in violation of this section is subject to the penalty provided in section 12.1-13-01.” This amendment would make it clear that only the unauthorized disclosure of confidential records is subject to penalty and not the release of information necessary to administer programs as described in this section.

This concludes my testimony. I would be happy to try to answer any questions the committee members may have. Thank you.

 

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