Casper Lawmaker Proposes Bill To Give Parents More Access To Their Kids' Health Records

Hospitals and doctors are required by federal law to keep some treatments for kids as young as 12 confidential even from their parents, which prompted state Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, to propose a state bill chipping away at that requirement.

CM
Clair McFarland

June 23, 20233 min read

State Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper.
State Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper. (Matt Idler for Cowboy State Daily)

Wyoming lawmakers want to change state laws that prevent parents from accessing all of their 12- to 17-year-old children’s health records.  

The state has multiple laws that, combined with a federal regulation, bar parents from seeing some of their children’s treatment records.  

For example, children can seek tobacco cessation treatment without parental consent. Under federal regulation, that also means parents can’t see the record of that treatment for their child.  

Sexually transmitted disease treatment also falls under the rule. In some extreme cases, sexual assault treatments and court-ordered abortions do as well.   

Rep. Jeanette Ward, R-Casper, asked the Legislature’s Labor, Health and Social Services Committee on Friday to consider repealing the tobacco statute specifically, since it addresses children as young as 12.  

The committee voted in favor of considering a bill draft at its Sept. 21 meeting.  

“I think parents need to be the primary stakeholders in their children’s health, and they have a right to know if their child is seeking tobacco cessation treatment,” said Ward during a Friday meeting of the committee in Evanston.  

Lots Of Laws Keep Parents Out 

Controversy erupted last week as parents and state legislators reacted to a Banner Health note sent to parents of 12-year-olds, informing them they could no longer access their children’s health records online because the law keeps some of those records confidential from parents.  

The hospital’s online system simply can’t distinguish between records parents are allowed and not allowed to see, Lance Porter, Banner Health CEO, told lawmakers, adding that the hospital system is required to follow the laws.  

But parents can make a special request online or in person to see the child health care records that they are allowed to review.  

Porter warned legislators that the tobacco statute is one of multiple laws making certain records off-limits for parents. He indicated it would be a waste of time to address the tobacco law only when the hospital is still bound to follow others.  

“I’d hate to see legislation drafted addressing (just) one of these issues,” said Porter.  

Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, agreed, saying the topic could be part of a larger study.  

Big Federal Law 

Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, warned the committee that the regulation equating consent with confidentiality is based on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Crossing HIPAA has consequences for states, said Boley.  

“HIPAA is a messy one,” he said. “If we pass a state law that requires our hospitals or health care providers to breach or violate HIPAA, we immediately have to self-report ourselves to the office of the Attorney General.” 

Fines and even jail time could follow, Boley said.  

Ward noted that a portion of the federal regulation gives states the ability to temper it with state law.

Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill did not respond by Friday to a Monday request for comment from Cowboy State Daily about whether Wyoming would, or can, sue the federal Department of Health and Human Services over its regulation.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter