Senate advances bill on parental access to children’s medical records

March 28, 2024 | 12:10 am

Updated March 27, 2024 | 10:54 pm

Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, speaks on House Bill 174, which relates to patient medical records. | Photo by KY LRC

The Kentucky Senate on Wednesday advanced a bill to ensure that parents have access to medical records of their children who are under the age of 18. 

Sen. Donald Douglas, R-Nicholasville, presented House Bill 174 on the chamber floor and said it’s about parental rights. It passed with a 28-7 vote.

“This bill is about access to the medical records of minor children by their personal representative. I’ve heard the argument of HIPAA gives us all the access, but ultimately, if one reads all the HIPAA forms, they find that often these decisions are left up to the states or even sometimes these decisions are left up to the treating physician,” he said. 

Douglas said previous legislation has put up barriers for parents. He read a passage from current state law that grants physicians the ability to treat certain medical conditions affecting a minor patient without the consent of a parent or guardian. 

Douglas said children who are at least 16 years old can receive mental health treatment without the consent of a parent, and this is “wrong.”

“House Bill 174 simply says that the personal representative – that means the individual who has the authority under law to make health care decisions for that minor child. So, I have the right to access the patient’s health information maintained by a health care provider in a medical record,” he said. 

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, spoke against the measure. She said that, under federal law, parents can already access most of their children’s health records and that state law includes a few additional protections for children. 

The areas Armstrong cited include reproductive health care, mental health care, and cases of possible child abuse suspected by a medical provider.

“In these circumstances, a child is allowed to consent to their own medical treatment without the permission of a parent, for good reason. It would not make sense for a child who is being abused to have to seek the consent of that parent in order to get treatment for injuries related to that abuse,” she said. 

Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, also spoke against the bill. Over the weekend, Berg said she spoke with several pediatricians in her district. She asked them how the measure would affect their practices. 

“Every pediatrician I asked about this bill told me that under no circumstances would they follow it, that they felt that this was a huge break in physician-patient confidentiality around certain singular issues that growing teenagers sometimes desire and sometimes need confidentiality from their parents,” she said. 

Douglas countered that if medical providers suspect abuse, they are obligated to call the police.

“Our purpose in our job as a physician and as physician health care providers is to provide opinions and treatment. Not to rear our children,” Douglas said. “That’s not our job. We don’t have that power.” 

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, voted for the measure and said children are under the authority of their parents. 

Another supporter, Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, said he hasn’t heard from any doctors about the bill but has heard from many parents who want it. 

He said he wanted to remind health care providers that he goes to them for professional advice. “I do not go to you to raise my child or to tell me what to do.” 

HB 174 now heads back to the House.

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

March 28, 2024 | 12:10 am

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