Passage of a national medical records privacy law this year has been endangered by a split between two Republican senators who are drafting legislation.
After negotiating since October on a legislative proposal with Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee Chairman James Jeffords (R-Vt.) earlier this month introduced the Health Care Personal Information Nondisclosure Act.
Bennett, who first introduced privacy legislation in 1995, still is drafting a new version of his bill.
Both senators said the division is friendly and expressed hope that they will work together to pass legislation. But the existence of separate Republican privacy bills-one by the chairman of a committee with jurisdiction over healthcare law and one by a leading advocate on the issue-raises questions about whether Congress can reach consensus on national confidentiality standards.
"The appearance that Jeffords and Bennett aren't working together decreases the likelihood that there will be (passage of) a confidentiality bill this year," said one hospital lobbyist.