The headlines read: “Ohio open-records law trumps federal
health-data secrecy.” In the article, appearing in the
Columbus Dispatch, it says the Ohio law guaranteeing people
access to government records outranks the federal HIPPA law,
the Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week.
While some may say that comparing Ohio
and Texas is like comparing apples and oranges, it is the
first case of its kind that has established case law on the
issue—at least that I can find.
The Cincinnati case involved a
newspaper’s request to view lead-paint citations issued by
the local health department, justices ruled unanimously that
federal privacy guidelines can’t be used to seal records
that are public under state law.
Fort Bend County Clerk Dianne Wilson, who
came under fire prior to the primary election last month,
for posting public information, including some records that
contain medical information, on the Internet, has maintained
that Texas law governing open records clearly conflicts with
the federal law established to protect medical information.
The Ohio ruling could have nationwide
impact, reporters there said.
Wilson maintains that state officials
have indicated the county does not fall under HIPPA rules.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers who has indicated he
believes that federal law supercedes Texas law, said in a
recent interview that no court cases have gone on to appeals
court in Texas and therefore no case law has been
Now it appears that at least one entity
has established a state vs. federal government case that
could prove to be the norm nationwide.
In the meantime, the last I heard, the
county will most likely move forward with plans to spend
more money to determine if various county agencies,
including Wilson’s, are in compliance with the law. So far,
we’ve spent $4,000 to study the issue, but more study is
needed, some say.
Maybe if we are lucky the Ohio decision will shed a
different light on the subject before too much is spent
figuring it all out.