Casper-based Banner Health’s restriction of parents’ access to their older children’s health records is nothing new, and it’s not exclusive to Banner, the Wyoming hospital said in a statement this week.
Parents and lawmakers raised concerns last week about a Banner Health note telling a parent she could no longer access her child’s online health records now that the child is 12 and can consent to some types of care.
Other parents have since reached out to Cowboy State Daily, saying they received the same note when their children turned 12.
Banner Health of Casper said in a Tuesday statement that this is nothing new and is a product of federal and state laws. It's also not exclusive to Banner facilities.
“Banner Health follows state and federal laws regarding parental access to health records for minors ages 12-17,” says the statement. “The process is not new to Banner and has been in place for many years. Banner does not block records that other hospitals or systems allow parents to see.”
Parents can request access to their children’s “allowable health records” electronically through Banner Health’s website, the statement continues, or fill out a medical records request at a Banner Health hospital.
Because Of STDs And Abortions
Banner Health bases part of its actions on a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulation, 45 CFR 164.502(g), which says that parents and guardians are no longer children’s “personal representatives” in health care situations where children, or a court on their behalf, can consent to their own care.
In Wyoming, minors can consent to STD treatment on their own, and they can get a court’s permission to get an abortion without parental consent. There also are cases where the state can forcibly treat minors without a parent’s consent, such as public health and mental health emergencies, under state law.
Since Clinton And Bush
The federal rule is not a law, but has the force of law as a regulation implemented to uphold a law. And it’s more than two decades old.
According to the federal register, the department proposed the rule in 2000, when Bill Clinton was president, and it went into effect during George W. Bush’s administration about a year later.
Wyoming’s House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, said he’s surprised to see the issue stirring controversy now after at least two decades.
Stith, who’s also an attorney, said interpreting the Health Insurance Portable Accountability Act to lock parents out of their children’s health care records seems like a stretch.
“There’s nothing really to indicate that when Congress adopted (HIPAA) they intended to prevent parents from getting access to their children’s medical records,” said Stith, adding that he hasn’t researched the regulation enough to form a legal opinion about Banner’s stance specifically.
And there’s a curveball in the law, Stith said.
“I suppose an interesting twist of that is, HIPAA has an exclusion on privacy for collection agencies, if you don’t pay your medical bills,” he said. “If Banner is correct, the collection agency could see the child’s medical records, but the parent couldn’t. It’s odd.”
‘I Pay The Bill’
Dawn Crane, a Casper woman with guardianship of two children, said Banner locked her out of her child’s online medical account about two years ago.
“I pay the bill,” said Crane. “I’m the one that has to bring them in and sign off on stuff. So why would I let them have their own (accounts)? It makes no sense.”
There may be a silver lining for parents-rights advocates in the federal rule itself, however. One of its subsections says health care providers can give parents access to their kids’ health records “if such action is consistent with State or other applicable law.”
Reps. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, and Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, have pledged to propose law changes in the upcoming 2024 lawmaking session to remedy what they both characterized last week as a breach of parental rights.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.