News groups oppose privacy plans

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Journalism organizations are asking the U.S. Department of Health & Human
Services to modify proposed privacy rules that they believe would hamper
reporters' efforts to cover medical emergencies, environmental problems,
health-care issues and other stories.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association, the Society of Professional
Journalists and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press seek to add two
'public-interest' exceptions.

One would permit disclosure of information to which the public has an
affirmative right of access under federal or state law, and the other would
arise in matters involving public figures or such public interest as health and
safety.

The Privacy Rules -- part of the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) -- generally prohibit the use or disclosure
of routine health information without the written consent of the
patient.

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