Rumor has it that the House will attempt include the language from the HB 614, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act, onto another piece of legislation sometime tomorrow or on Sine Die. Whether or not this will be done in House Rules, on the floor or during a conference committee is unclear at this time. However, it should be pointed out that the Senate defeated HB 614 on Monday evening.
Interestingly enough, the federal grant money that legislators are seeking with for this program comes from the Department of Justice, which actually admits, “Efforts to implement state prescription drug monitoring programs tend to [be met] with opposition from a variety of groups including medical associations, pharmacy groups, pharmaceutical companies, patient advocacy groups, and civil liberty groups.”
Below is video from the Senate debate on HB 614, including an excellent speech against the bill from Sen. Preston Smith. I’m also including what I posted on Monday below the cut.
I’d also like to point you to former Congressman Bob Barr’s post over at the AJC about HB 614.
At some point today, the Georgia Senate will consider HB 614, the “Georgia Prescription Monitoring Program Act,” which would establish a state surveillance system for the monitoring of prescribing and dispensing of certain medications (Schedules II, III, IV, or V). Included in the database would be most pain relievers, anxiety medications, sleep aids, anti-diarrheals, and anything containing Codeine such as Robitussin.
This bill is bad social and fiscal policy and it violates the privacy and due process rights of Georgia citizens enumerated in the Georgia Constitution.
This bill is bad social policy because it allows government intrusion and second-guessing of the doctor-patient relationship. It treats Georgia citizens not as civilized people but as children who need to be monitored and controlled.
Also, as noted by the American Cancer Society, several studies indicate that prescription monitoring programs have a “chilling effect” on healthcare professionals’ prescribing of needed medication to legitimate pain patients for fear of being investigated by law enforcement.
This law is also bad fiscal policy. Once the initial federal funding for this program has run out, Georgia citizens will be left to foot the bill, which the U.S. Dept. of Justice estimates to cost the state up to $1 million annually. In our current economic crisis, this is not only fiscally irresponsible, it is downright immoral. Moreover, this program will not withstand judicial scrutiny and a lawsuit in its defense will cost the taxpayers that much more money.
This bill also violates the privacy and due process rights of Georgia citizens. It gives the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency access to the private medical records of Georgia citizens without probable cause.
Under Georgia law, no law enforcement official can lawfully obtain any part of a Georgia citizen’s medical record without first obtaining the patient’s consent or a court order, such as a search warrant or a subpoena. In Johnson v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that “the State is not entitled to exercise indiscriminate subpoena power as an investigative substitute for procedural devices otherwise available to it in the criminal context, such as a search warrant.”
In King v. State, the Georgia Supreme Court reiterated that “In this state, privacy is considered a fundamental constitutional right and is ‘recognized as having a value so essential to individual liberty in our society that [its] infringement merits careful scrutiny by the courts.’” It also noted that “[p]ermitting the State unlimited access to medical records for the purposes of prosecuting the patient would have the highly oppressive effect of chilling the decision of any and all Georgians to seek medical treatment.”
There are alternative, much more reasonable methods of accomplishing the same ends of this legislation without the egregious constitutional violations of this bill’s means.
Contact your State Senator and ask them to please stand up for our privacy and due process rights and to not pave the way for Orwell’s big-government 1984. Please vote “NO” on HB 614.