HIPAA, Gabrielle Gifford, and Steve Jobs

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jack Anderson

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I spend a lot of time on the Internet researching the latest news concerning HIPAA and HITECH but recently the news was in my local paper, The San Francisco Chronicle. 

The angle was the contrast between the volumes of information being released on Gabby Gifford and the paucity of information released about Steve Jobs, who is taking another medical leave. 

The main point made after a good discussion of the HIPAA rules was that the congresswoman and her husband had given permission for the release of data and Apple and Steve Jobs had not.

Of course Steve Jobs the patient has a right to privacy, but does Steve Jobs the CEO have that right?  Here we get into dueling bureaucracies; SEC and HHS.  The SEC has not issued guidance on whether boards should disclose health issues for directors or officers, however some experts feel that they should. 

To quote a section of the article: "Although Jobs has no obligation to disclose his medical condition, if he discussed it with Apple's board, the board could have an obligation to disclose it to shareholders.  HIPAA would not prohibit this disclosure and some argue that securities law might even require it."

Shareholders certainly were concerned.  Apple's stock price fell as much as 4% on the news despite fourth quarter earnings of $6 billion on sales of $26 billion.  Of course Apple with Jobs is magical, Apple without Jobs is ordinary. 

When he came back to Apple in 1997 the stock was essentially worthless and now it is well over $300 per share.  If I was an Apple shareholder I would be very concerned for the future if he can't come back. 

There will be endless speculation about his condition, in fact I have already seen doctors doing remote diagnosis in the newspaper, but ultimately I have to side with his privacy rights as a human being not as a CEO.

Cross-posted from Compliance Helper

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Allan Pratt, MBA Excellent post, Jack - good points about privacy.
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