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Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 24, 2005)

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from New York's (Mr. Hinchey) amendment just restates existing law. What Ken Tomlinson wants to do is turn NPR into the NRC, the National Republican Committee, rather than National Public Radio. That is what it is all about.

CPB used to stand for Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Now it will stand for Corporation for Political Boondoggles, as this Republican administration seeks to politicize something that in all national polling is the most respected news outlet in the United States of America.

This is wrong. Support the Hinchey amendment.

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the Manager's amendment.

The Manager's amendment includes an amendment that I filed to offer to the bill yesterday, which would address an important privacy protection issue.

Mr. Chairman, the recent wave of massive data thefts has swept up the precious, private information of millions and millions of Americans.

Everyday seems to bring new examples of gaping holes in databases being exploited by criminals: ChoicePoint, Lexis-Nexis, and CardSystems Solutions.

These are just 3 recent examples of huge heists of personal information.

And when Americans' financial records are drained from databases, does Federal law require the victims to be notified? No!

When Americans' Social Security numbers are siphoned from databases by criminals, does Federal law require that the victims are at least notified? No!

And, most importantly, when Americans' most private health information is plundered from databases, does Federal law require the victims to be notified? Shockingly, Unbelievably--No!

Mr. Chairman, the bill before us today provides $75 million to support the creation of a new network of databases containing the health records of millions of Americans across the country. This new health information network will be, in effect, the ``Mother of All Databases.'' This network, when it is completed, will provide unprecedented access to the most private, personal health records of tens of millions of Americans.

The nationwide network holds tremendous promise. But it also holds enormous peril for the privacy of Americans' medical records. That's because we know that databases currently maintained by the Federal government are vulnerable to infiltration by the data thieves.

How do we know this?

In February 2005, President Bush's Information Technology Advisory Committee reported that:

The information technology infrastructure of the United States ..... is highly vulnerable to terrorist and criminal attacks and [T]he Federal Government needs to fundamentally improve its approach to cyber security.

In May 2005, GAO reported that:

[T]he Federal Government is limited in its ability to identify and respond to emerging cybersecurity threats, including sophisticated and coordinated attacks that target multiple federal entities.

Even with the most sophisticated and modern cybersecurity, we have learned that reels of data can be lost off the back of a truck.

While there is much we must and should do to minimize that loss of data, it is simply unforgivable to hide a known breach from the individuals whose personal data has fallen into unauthorized hands.

An individual can sometimes take action to protect herself while authorities try to puzzle out what happened to cause a breach. At least they should know when they are at risk.

A national health information network could provide significant benefits for patients, physicians, hospitals, and other health providers. But to realize these benefits, this new network must have strong privacy safeguards.

My amendment, which is now part of the Manager's amendment, would simply require that patients whose health information is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of this new health records database must be notified if their records are lost, stolen or used for an unauthorized purpose.

Our amendment would apply to the tens of millions of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries whose personally identifiable health information is maintained by the Federal Government.

As the Department begins to develop the standards for this enormous database, privacy of patients must be a priority.

As many of us know, people can be more concerned about their medical information being public than their financial information.

There are things in medical records that people don't even tell members of their own families.

We are at the dawn of the development of this new database. Now is the time to ensure that privacy is paramount.

Our amendment will ensure that patients victimized when their health information in the database is stolen or misused are simply notified so they can take the necessary steps to protect themselves.

In fact, the following 13 states already have enacted similar notification requirements for patients whose personal information has been stolen from electronic databases: Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Washington.

This is a vital, common-sense amendment, and I am pleased that it has been incorporated into the Manager's amendment. I urge its adoption.

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Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to oppose the massive cuts to the Title VII health professions training programs which play a critical role in addressing the shortage of doctors, nurses, dentists and other health professionals in underserved areas and have proven to increase the diversity of the health care workforce.

The Republicans' fiscal year 2006 budget gives away $106 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest in our society. Now, in order to pay for those cuts, they are making huge cuts to critical programs for the poor and the most vulnerable in our country. The Title VII health professions training programs are some of the many casualties of these tax giveaways.

In order to pay for tax cuts to the wealthy, this bill slashes funding for the Title VII programs by 84 percent, cutting the programs from $300 million to $47 million. These Title VII programs promote access to quality health care to for our nation's neediest citizens and they are only federal programs designed help prepare health professionals to respond to the needs of these special and underserved populations.

These programs are a vital component of the health education system in our country and are necessary to maintain the high quality health care that we expect. These cuts will have a dramatic impact on the system at a time when essential health care services are already facing funding cuts and program eliminations.

I urge you to oppose these cuts and I am hopeful that the Committee will work to increase funding for these programs in Conference.

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