Queens lawmaker’s bill prohibiting first response service providers from selling patient information signed into law

Photo credit: Flickr/Keith Morgan

New Yorker’s protected health information is now a lot safer thanks to new legislation passed earlier this week.

The bill, first introduced by Assemblyman Edward Braunstein in 2014, prohibits ambulance and first response service providers from disclosing or selling private patient information to third parties for marketing purposes. On Oct. 7, Governor Cuomo signed the bill, which Senator John Liu carried into the Senate.

“Nothing is more personal than your health records, and New Yorkers have a right to privacy when it comes to this incredibly sensitive information,” Cuomo said. “This law sets clear guidelines so patient information isn’t sold or used for marketing purposes and most importantly doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.”

Prior law allowed emergency response providers to sell information identifying an individual patient including home addresses, phone numbers, prescription names and medical history. Now, the law prohibits the disclosure of such information to third parties except to healthcare providers, a patient’s insurer and parties acting under the proper legal authority.

“I first introduced this legislation in 2014 after reports surfaced that some emergency service providers in New York State may have been selling patient protected health information (PHI) for fundraising and marketing purposes,” Braunstein said. “Patients have a right to privacy and their medical information should never be sold to pharmaceutical companies, insurers, nursing homes, or other businesses.”

Back in 2014, the New York Post published an exposé revealing that the FDNY used patients’ protected health information for fundraising and marketing. The department has since changed its privacy policy.

“We live in a world where we have to be concerned with how our data is being bought and used every day,” said Liu. “Under no circumstances, when someone is in the middle of a life-threatening crisis, should they have to worry about their information being sold for any reason. This bill provides peace of mind to New Yorkers by protecting the privacy of those who have suffered enough already.”

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