Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, July 11, 2011

Making Government a Little Less Bothersome - Here May Be an Opportunity

In a May address to the American Enterprise Institute, Cass Sunstein of Nudge fame, and also the administrative czar of the the Obama administration, announced the result of a four month study of regulations whose costs out weighed their benefits.

Not too surprisingly in today's atmosphere, almost no one was pleased -- one group saying it was at best only a small step and their polar opposites arguing it was a step in the wrong direction and at best was taking resources away from more important regulatory action. See the Huffington post article for the comments, Obama Regulatory Review Announcement Finds Few Fans.

(Or if you actually care to see exactly what Mr. Sunstein said, here's a link to his prepared remarks.)

What brought this to mind was the BNA DLR ($) story this morning about a May 31st informal opinion letter from the EEOC dealing with confidential data from both an ADA and GINA perspective.  The conclusion:
maintaining personal health information and occupational health information in a single Electronic Medical Record, particularly one that allows someone with access to the EMR to view any information contained therein, presents a real possibility that the ADA, GINA, or both will be violated.
I didn't read the opinion letter close enough to know whether I agree with its conclusion. Nor do I know enough to say that there is a substantial benefit to keeping both personal  and occupational health information in a single electronical medical record, although intuitively it sounds as if there would be.  But assuming the letter is right, and that having one EMR is both a cheaper and more satisfactory alternative than having to keep them separate, this would seem exactly the sort of undertaking that I would hope governmental agencies are looking at.

Although the individual cost might not be all that great, the collective costs to all employers could be substantial, and there is also something appealing about thinking that government was in fact thinking of how things could work better for everyone, but in a way that protects interests of both employers and employees.

It might take some revising of regulations, or perhaps even some statutory adjustments, but it would be nice to think rather than just advice to keep them separate, there is even now within the EEOC some one following up to see if there might not just be a better way. 

Hopefully, if there is, they will let us know.


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