Casper’s Banner Health has revoked at least one parent’s access to her child’s medical records online now that the child is 12 years old, according to a tip sent this week to Cowboy State Daily.
“Access to your child’s account has been revoked,” reads a screen shot of Banner Health’s message to the parent. “The reason for this is because the child is now between the ages of 12 and 17. Based on state law, a minor child may consent to certain treatments without parental consent.”
Records of those treatments are protected, Banner Health’s note continues, “and may not be released to a parent without the minor patient’s consent.”
Because the hospital can’t separate those protected records out, it denied the parent proxy access to her child’s patient account.
The parent still can request the child’s medical records by going to a Banner Health hospital or clinic and completing a request for certain records, the note says.
It adds: “We can limit access to records of treatment that may not be provided without the minor’s consent.”
Banner Health, in response to Cowboy State Daily inquiries, sent an email roughly reiterating its note to the parent and referencing the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
The act doesn’t center around medical treatments; it was designed to protect children from data-mining websites by requiring disclosures and parental consent.
A friend of Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, sent him the note, which he in turn shared with Cowboy State Daily.
Brown was concerned. He met with Banner Health leadership Thursday, and his concern swelled to frustration, he told Cowboy State Daily.
“They’re claiming now only the person who receives the treatment and consents to the treatment has access to medical records,” said Brown of Banner Health’s stance.
Brown said Banner Health leadership referenced the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which sets privacy standards in medical care.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reads HIPAA as promising privacy for children in situations where the child can consent to care on his own. The agency has codified its interpretation into regulation.
Brown said he’s discussing that interpretation with attorneys and has asked Wyoming’s Legislative Service Office to look into the issue.
“When it comes to child health care, the parent should have access to the records at all times,” said Brown. “Those parents are responsible for their child’s wellbeing.”
Brown or another legislator will likely bring a proposed remedy in the upcoming state legislative session, he said.
Plagues, Abortions, Emancipations And STDs
There are a few instances in Wyoming law wherein children have medical decision-making power, such as when a child is legally emancipated from his parents.
Wyoming law allows children to petition courts for special permission to get an abortion without a parent’s consent.
It also lets children consent to care for sexually-transmitted diseases.
During a public health emergency, the state health officer “may” subject a child to vaccination or treatment without consent if the child’s parent can’t be found and the treatment is necessary to protect public health or to protect the child, the law says.
Authorities can subject a mentally ill child to treatment during an emergency detainment situation if safety demands it.
Parents also can authorize medical autonomy for their children.
State law doesn’t appear to promise medical records privacy for the child from his parents in those instances.
‘Seems Like Overkill’
Banner Health’s note indicates that parents can apply for records at a facility, but not access them in total online, and the hospital can restrict access if it identifies privacy issues under its federal consent interpretation.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, calls that overkill.
“It seems like overkill to restrict all records just in the case of these specific procedures where a child was allowed to go out on their own,” said Case. “That’s like one in 10,000 maybe. But say it’s one in 100 — you’ve got 99 out of 100 people (for whose sake) you’re preventing parents from having their rights with their children.”
Brown said the Casper facility’s online records system may be unable to separate out those exempted treatments, and Banner Health is sending parents to facilities in person so that a human, rather than a computer system, can determine which records the hospital deems shareable.
The legislator reiterated his disagreement with that stance, however.
Maybe A Glitch.
Or it could be a glitch, Republican Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, chairman of the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, told Cowboy State Daily.
“They’re looking into it, from what I understand,” said Zwonitzer, adding that the topic may surface at next week’s meeting of his committee in Evanston.
“(They’re) just locking out the online portal,” said Zwonitzer. “Parents certainly have access to all their child’s medical records up until the age of 18.”
Zwonitzer’s conversations with hospital personnel so far have left him with the impression that the system has a glitch that Banner could fix.
“But if there’s something more there, we’ll certainly discuss it with Banner Health and determine if any kind of statutory changes are needed,” he said.
Working On This
That wasn’t Brown’s impression at all. He characterized the hospital as doubling down on its reluctance to share some records with parents in cases allowing child consent.
“I’m just extremely disappointed in what their response was,” said Brown. “We will clearly be working on this.”
The Whole Patient Population
Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, told Cowboy State Daily that Banner Health sent the same note to the whole patient population of children turning 12.
She shared Brown's frustration.
"I think it's ridiculous that a parent cannot have access to their 12-year-old's online medical records and yes, this needs to be remedied by law," said Ward.
She asserted that government, school districts and authorities other than parents are part of a societal erosion of parental rights, and said society should work to secure those rights instead.
"We can start by declaring that PARENTS are the primary stakeholders in their children's education and healthcare," said Ward in an emailed statement to Cowboy State Daily.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.