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Your Health Is on the Line — and Everywhere Else

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Just how much does your insurance company know about your pesky gall bladder? More than you might think, according to recent studies. "People would be surprised to learn how much privacy they don't have," says TIME writer Daniel Eisenberg. And as new technologies continue to facilitate the sharing of all sorts of personal information between insurance providers, medical systems and marketing companies, President Clinton is poised to propose new privacy guidelines to protect consumers. The White House regulations, set to be released in the next week or two, would restrict access to patients' medical records, requiring health plans and insurance companies to get patients' permission before sharing any personal information.

Of course, many businesses are miffed by the proposal, claiming these regulations could keep patients from efficiently accessing their own records, but they're more likely concerned about no longer having free access to your information. "Business obviously hates to be regulated," says Eisenberg. "Guidelines like this make them feel hampered, and they're already up in arms about how much enforcement is going to cost." Clinton appears unmoved by their complaints, and, according to the New York Times, is annoyed with Congress for allowing the issue to languish for so long. Indeed, Clinton will take the opportunity to urge Congress to also allow patients to sue doctors or HMOs for undermining their privacy.