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July 25, 2009
Why no reporters on Obama's clinic tour in Cleveland?
Despite President Barack Obama's (D) praise for the Mayo Clinic, the eminent institution refused to succumb to flattery, publicly rejecting his health care plan, stating under it "The real losers will be the citizens of the United States."
Learning his lesson, Josh Gerstein of Politico , reports the not so transparent White House did not allow reporters during Obama's tour of the Cleveland Clinic, citing patient privacy rules guidelines passed in 1996 under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
But. . .
The explanation baffled some reporters because journalists regularly cover visits by politicians to hospitals and clinics. First Lady Michelle Obama has made a series of such visits in recent weeks and is scheduled to make another Monday in Virginia.
The executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Lucy Dalglish, called the episode "highly weird."
If confidential patient information was revealed during Obama's tour, it was unclear what the legal basis or necessity would be for disclosing it to him and his aides.
"The president, as far as HIPAA is concerned, is no different than anybody else," Dalglish said.
There have been episodes of overzealous application of patient privacy rules recently, including an incident in April where the Department of Veterans Affairs confiscated a radio reporter's equipment.
"I'm sure what they did was go in and ask patients, ‘Would you mind signing a waiver so the president and his friends could come in?'" Dalglish said. "Why those waivers wouldn't also say, 'He'll have a pool of reporters accompanying him,' is beyond me."
Hmmmm. Not so beyond me.