Senator Jane Nelson
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
News Release
February 11, 2011
Contact: Janet Elliott
Senator Nelson Files Medical Privacy Bill

AUSTIN — Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, today filed Senate Bill 622 to strengthen the protection of Texans' personal health information. Medical records include highly sensitive information, and the misuse of this information can lead to not only financial, but also personal consequences for patients.

"There is a sacred bond between patient and physician, and confidentiality is at the core of that relationship. Patients will not be forthcoming with their physicians if they believe that information will be shared with unauthorized third parties," said Senator Nelson.

The bill updates Texas' medical privacy laws to reflect advances in health information technology. It expands upon federal privacy protections, prohibits the sale of personal health information, increases protections of health information at our state agencies, and strengthens penalties for crimes involving personal health information.

"The ability of technology to significantly improve health care quality and efficiency will depend heavily on patients' confidence that their health information is secure," said Senator Nelson.

Key provisions of SB 622 would:

  • prohibit the sale of protected health information;
  • increase criminal penalties for theft of medical records, breach of computer security, and health care fraud, including Medicaid fraud, that involves stolen health information;
  • increase the civil penalties the Texas Attorney General may asses for violations of the Texas Medical Privacy Act;
  • require health care providers to provide a person's health record in an electronic format within five days of the request; and
  • require the Texas Attorney General to maintain a website providing information about consumer privacy rights and complaint procedures.

In 2001, Senator Nelson authored the Texas Medical Privacy Act, which prevented the transfer of patient data from health care providers to marketing or advertising entities without patient consent and gave patients the right to inspect their records for accuracy.

Senator Nelson represents Senate District 12, which includes portions of Denton and Tarrant counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.