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November 21, 2014

Anti-Privacy Law Enacted

Senior Counsel Dee Black answers questions and assists members with legal issues in Pennsylvania. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

As of December 31, 2014, Pennsylvania will have a new law that eliminates the confidentiality of children’s medical records in certain cases. Senate Bill 27, signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett on October 27, 2014, requires “certified medical practitioners” to provide the local social services agency with medical information on a child when an assessment for services or a child abuse investigation is being conducted or when the family has been accepted for needed services. Certified medical practitioners include licensed physicians, licensed physician’s assistants, and certified registered nurse practitioners. Information that must be provided includes: (1) relevant medical information regarding the child’s prior and current health, (2) information from a subsequent examination, (3) information regarding treatment of the child, and (4) relevant medical information regarding any other child in the household that may contribute to the assessment, investigation, or provision of services to any of the children. Contrary to traditional privacy standards prohibiting the release of a child’s medical records to a third party without parental consent, no such consent is needed for the release of this information to the county agency under the new law.

The new law also provides for the flow of information from social services to medical personnel both when it is not requested and when it is. In circumstances which negatively affect the health of a child, the county agency must take the initiative to notify the child’s primary care provider of (1) the final status of an investigation if the report of child abuse was “indicated” or “founded,” (2) information on an “unfounded” report if the medical practitioner made the report, and (3) any service to be provided to the family by the county. Additionally, in instances when a certified medical practitioner providing care to the child or the child’s primary care physician requests information about an investigation, social services must provide all of the information enumerated above, as well as the identity of other medical practitioners who have treated the child. The law says that this is to enable the practitioner to obtain the child’s medical records for coordination of care between medical practitioners.

While in some cases Home School Legal Defense Association advises members to provide social workers with the name of their family physician, there is nothing in the law that requires that they do so. The intrusive effects of the new law serve as a warning against voluntarily providing this information to social workers unless to do so would resolve the investigation in the family’s favor.

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