Gibbs: ‘I Have No Idea’ If People Can Exclude Certain Diseases and Abortions from Gov't-Mandated Electronic Health Records

By Fred Lucas | September 29, 2009 | 8:46 AM EDT

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (AP Photo)

( – White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told he has “no idea” if people can opt out of having certain diseases and abortions excluded from the Electronic Health Records that doctors and other health care providers must create for every American by 2014 under provisions in the stimulus law that Obama signed in February.
In July, President Obama personally told the AARP that his administration was working to “computerize” comprehensive medical records so that people would not have to repeat their entire medical history, including “every medication they've taken, every surgery they've gotten,” each time they went to a new health care provider.
Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) told last week that people would be able to exclude abortion and STDs from this record. asked Gibbs about the issue at yesterday’s White House press briefing.

“Congressman Patrick Kennedy had said with reference to the electronic health records that patients can opt out of having certain information on those, such as substance abuse, possibly abortions, or certain diseases. Does the White House agree with that, patients allowing opting out?” asked
“I'm not a health IT expert. I would direct you to somebody--I have no idea,” said Gibbs.
“Just the concept of allowing certain diseases or certain conditions not to be listed on the—,” followed up.
“I'm not a health IT expert, so I apologize,” said Gibbs.
The stimulus law signed by President Obama in February says that doctors, hospitals and other health care providers must create an Electronic Health Record (EHR) for every American by 2014 or else face deductions in their Medicare payments.
The law says the EHRs will be integrated into a national health care IT system where health-care providers nationwide as well as the government would have the ability to access them when authorized.
The law also says the EHRs will include a person’s “medical history and problems list” and will be put into a national system that allows for “the electronic linkage of health care providers, health plans, the government and other interested parties to enable electronic exchange and use of health information among all the components in the health care infrastructure in accordance with applicable law.”
When specifically asked by last week whether a person could opt out of having any STDs or abortions included in their EHR, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D.-R.I.) said that listing such things would be up to the individual.
“This is totally going to be up to the individual,” Kennedy said. “So, obviously, for the full effectiveness of the person, it’s to their benefit to have everything on a record, but it’s going to be totally up to the individual.”  (See story)
At a town hall meeting at AARP headquarters in Washington, D.C., on July 28, President Obama suggested that EHRs would include a comprehensive medical history that relayed to new health care providers “every medication they’ve taken, every surgery they’ve gotten.”
“We're also working to computerize medical records, because right now, too many folks wind up taking the same tests over and over and over again because their providers can't access previous results,” Obama told the AARP gathering.
“Or they have to relay their entire medical history -- every medication they've taken, every surgery they've gotten -- every time they see a new provider. Electronic medical records will help to put an end to all that.” (Read Obama’s remarks)