TMA to AG: Protect Physician Data from Open Records Request
By David Doolittle

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The Texas Medical Association is fighting to keep confidential the personal and financial data of physicians who recently participated in an independent dispute resolution (IDR) process created by Texas’ surprise billing law – Senate Bill 1264.

In a letter last week to the Texas Attorney General’s (AG’s) office, TMA argued information that is part of an open-records request filed with the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is protected under Texas law.

The request, filed by an unidentified media outlet, seeks “records showing the outcome of all Surprise Medical Bill cases filed with TDI for [5/22/2020 – 10/22/2020], both arbitration and mediation.”

The AG’s Office is reviewing the inquiry and will issue a decision in the coming weeks on whether TDI is required to release the information under state law. 

“Generally, the Public Information Act (the ‘Act’) requires the release of information, but there are exceptions,” TDI’s notice says. 

Although the deadline has passed for affected physicians and practices to file objections to the request, TMA is working to protect physician privacy.

In its 12-page letter, TMA points out that SB 1264 includes two confidentiality protections related to the IDR process.  One provision specifically states: “[i]nformation submitted by the parties to the arbitrator is confidential and not subject to disclosure under [the Public Information Act].” 

TMA’s letter stresses, “It is imperative that the information be ruled confidential by law in order to: (1) effectuate the Texas Legislature’s intent and (2) encourage participation in the SB 1264 IDR processes as was intended by the law.” 

Throughout the 2019 Texas legislative session and the TDI rulemaking process on SB 1264, TMA emphasized the importance of including meaningful confidentiality protections in order to encourage the use of the IDR processes created under the bill. 

TMA will continue to monitor this open-records request and its impact on the SB 1264 IDR processes.

Last Updated On

November 23, 2020

Originally Published On

November 23, 2020

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David Doolittle

Editor

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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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