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Trump officials propose easing privacy rules to improve addiction treatment
The Trump administration proposed to ease privacy rules governing addiction treatment Thursday in an effort to give doctors access to key information about a patient.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the new rules would help doctors share information about a patient's addiction history to help prevent scenarios where doctors have inadvertently prescribed opioids to patients, not knowing that they had a history of addiction.
"Not having that information can literally be deadly," Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on a call with reporters.
He said the new rule would lift "onerous requirements" to make it "easier for people struggling with substance use disorders to discuss these issues with their doctors [and] seek treatment."
Officials stressed that there are still privacy protections, for example maintaining protections that prevent law enforcement from using addiction treatment records against a patient.
"Everything is done with a patient's consent," Azar said.
Officials said another goal is reducing regulatory burdens for doctors, who will now face fewer hurdles to access and record addiction treatment information for patients.
The issue has generally not been divisive along partisan lines, with some bipartisan support for changes, though some advocates worry loosening the rules too far could discourage patients from seeking treatment for addiction.
House Republicans on Thursday praised the move.
"Outdated federal substance use disorder (SUD) confidentiality law and regulations are actively interfering in the safe treatment of patients and we are pleased that the President has taken action to address this obstacle in our efforts to save people from opioid overdoing," Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said in a statement.