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Civil rights emerging as health care issue

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Civil rights disputes are at the forefront of issues that may affect health care employers soon, with disputes over abortion, contraception and the “right to die” taking the forefront, said Dan Groszkruger, principal of Rskmgmt.inc Healthcare Risk Management Services in Solana Beach, California.

Mr. Groszkruger said faith-based health care employers will likely confront whether they have to provide abortion services or contraception coverage for their patients and employees.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers nationwide are considering whether terminally ill patients have a right to physician-assisted suicide, as well as whether those patients have a “right to try” experimental medications that haven't reached the market but could extend their lives, Mr. Groszkruger said. He noted that California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law this month legalizing assisted suicide for terminally ill patients but vetoed a bill last month that would have allowed pharmaceutical companies to make investigational drugs available to certain patients with life-threatening diseases.

“A lot of those proposals are underway in various state legislatures. They're all based on perceived rights and (the idea that) somebody else is breaching that right,” Mr. Groszkruger said during the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management's annual conference in Indianapolis.

Paul English Smith, vice president and general counsel with Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia, noted that cyber breaches and data protection continue to be issues for health care organizations.

He noted that many health care groups have outsourced the conversion of their medical billing systems under the International Classification of Diseases, a set of standardized codes that identify conditions and procedures in medical billings. On Oct. 1, medical providers switched from using ICD-9, which includes about 17,000 diagnosis and procedure codes, to ICD-10, which includes more than 155,000 diagnosis and procedure codes.

Since many firms helping with ICD-10 conversion are outside the United States, Mr. English Smith said that could expose sensitive health information to overseas cyber breaches.

“This is an area of evolution because I think more and more we have to put responsibility on people that go beyond simple HIPAA compliance,” Mr. English Smith said.