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Proposed Ohio bill seeks to give parents more control over their child’s medical records

Zurie Pope, Ohio Capital Journal,

A proposed bill in the Ohio House would give parents greater control over their child’s medical records and change access rules for Ohio medical facilities. A policy researcher is warning, however, about the potential harm of forcing minors to disclose psychological and other records like STI testing that they might prefer to keep private.

Introduced March 27, Ohio House Bill 463, is the latest law being pushed by Republican state Rep. Gary Click, of Vickery, the primary sponsor of legislation rolling back access to gender-affirming care for transgender youth in Ohio. That law was vetoed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, but his veto was overridden by a supermajority of Republican lawmakers and is now set to take effect on April 24.

Click’s latest legislation is called the “My Child-My Chart Act.”

In utilizing an electronic health records system to maintain the records of a patient who is a minor, a health care provider shall ensure to the fullest extent permitted under the HIPAA privacy rule and Ohio law that the minor’s parent or guardian has access in that system to the minor’s health records,” the bill states. “This includes, if necessary to ensure parent or guardian access to the fullest extent, maintaining the minor’s records in such a manner that separates records relating to care that the minor received without parent or guardian consent and care received with parent or guardian consent.”

Another key quote from the bill states, “Additionally, a health care provider shall not require the minor’s parent or guardian to obtain the minor’s authorization before the parent or guardian may access the electronic health records system records relating to care the minor received with parent or guardian consent.”

The bill also requires that health care providers annually inform parents and guardians of circumstances when a minor can receive medical care without their consent. Additionally, although the medical records for procedures agreed to without a parent’s consent cannot be disclosed, the bill states health care providers must “provide the minor an opportunity to provide general, ongoing written consent for parent or guardian access to the minor’s medical records regarding care that the minor patient may have consented to, or may consent to in the future, without parent or guardian consent” during the minor’s annual wellness visit. 

The circumstances in which a minor can consent to medical care in Ohio are limited. Minors can consent to be given an HIV test for the diagnosis of AIDS or an AIDS-related condition; donate blood to a nonprofit voluntary program (if at least 17 years old); receive an examination for the purpose of gathering physical evidence of an alleged sexual offense such as rape, and other procedures of that kind. 

“Concerned parents have informed me that they have been unable to view their children’s online medical records without permission from the child. I think that’s wrong,” Click is quoted as saying in an unreleased press release. “The My-Child My-Chart Act will equip parents with greater medical transparency by requiring hosting services to segregate HIPAA-protected records until permission is given, meaning parents will no longer need their child’s consent to digitally access their non-protected files.”

House Bill 463 isn’t the only Ohio Statehouse bill giving parents greater oversight of their children.

House Bill 8, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Sarah Carruthers and D.J Swearingen, requires school districts, “prior to providing instruction that includes sexuality content, disclose to parents any instructional material that includes sexuality content,” and, “At the beginning of the school year, notify parents of each health care service offered at their student’s school and their option to withhold consent or decline any specified service,” adding “Parental consent to health care services does not waive the parent’s right to access the parent’s student’s educational or health records or to be notified about a change in the student’s services or monitoring.” 

An amendment to the bill, which has passed the Ohio House but not the Ohio Senate yet, would also force districts to out transgender students to their families, which advocates have warned would potentially put such students in danger if their families are intolerant of their gender identity.

The ‘parents rights’ movement impacting Ohio

Expanding parental oversight is an increasingly popular subject for Republican lawmakers in statehouses across the country.

In Kentucky, House Bill 174, sponsored by Kentucky state Rep. Rebecca Raymer, among others, states “The parent of a patient who is under the age of 18, or a patient’s personal representative on behalf of the patient who is under the age of 18, shall have the right to access the patient’s health information maintained by a health care provider in a medical record unless prohibited under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or any other federal or state law.”

In Arizona, House Bill 2139, sponsored by state Rep. Julie Willoughby, says a minor’s medical records “are not privileged and confidential and may be disclosed to the minor patient’s parents or guardian unless the minor patient notifies the health care provider… that the minor patient’s medical medical records are privileged and confidential and may not be disclosed to the minor patient’s parent or guardian.”

 In Wyoming, state Rep. Jeanette Ward proposed a bill that would repeal requirements keeping medical treatment records for children as young as 12 private. 

Since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Protect Parental Rights in Education Act — otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay,” bill — into law in 2022, bills expanding parental involvement in areas like school curriculum and health care have increased. According to FutureEd, an independent think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, 62 parental rights bills were introduced in 24 states in 2023, and 85 in 26 states were introduced in 2022.

“Parents do have to consent to almost all medical procedures and medical visits in the state of Ohio and they already have access to those records,” explained Kathryn Poe, Budget&Health researcher for Policy Matters Ohio. “What Representative Click’s a bill actually does is that it’s kind of an attempt to undercut the very few instances in Ohio where a young person does have the ability to refrain from sharing information with their parents.”

Noting there are only a handful of instances in which a minor can maintain medical privacy in Ohio, Poe said “these very few circumstances include situations where there is a possible question about whether abuse has occurred, when a young person has perhaps opted for STI testing and might not want a parent to know about it.”

Poe also discussed how releasing these records would give parents insight on medical and psychological information their children would prefer to keep private.

“It also would open up medical and psychological records to parents that young people have already protected access to, which is really just a sacred space for young people to be able to express their feelings,” Poe said. “That doesn’t mean that young people are hiding something from a parent. It just means that they have legal protections in place to make sure that they feel safe, and they should be able to feel safe.

“I think there’s this really strong movement toward the belief that parents kind of own their children,” Poe said. “I think it’s also really deeply connected to this paranoia about gender, parents and right wing organizations are really pushing this narrative that children are transitioning without them, or having access to services without them, that they are seeking reproductive health care without them. And we know for a fact that that’s not only not necessarily true, but it’s also not legally possible.”

Ultimately, Poe believes that parental rights bills are detrimental for children, negatively impacting their autonomy and relationship with their parents.

“I think it’s really harmful for a lot of young people to feel like their parents are constantly trying to be in their business,” Poe said. “I think it also hurts their development … kids need the ability to think through their own decisions, and learn how to make medical decisions, and learn how to trust their parent, which is going to come in handy when they’re adults.”

Zurie Pope is a student at the University of Cincinnati and a reporter. His work has appeared in The Nation Magazine, the Washington Blade, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and his school newspaper, The News Record. His work focuses on the influence of moneyed interests on politics, LGBTQ+ issues and domestic extremism.

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