Comment: Several commenters noted that many health care providers are bound by the federal restrictions governing alcohol and drug abuse records. One commenter noted that the NPRM differed substantially from the substance abuse regulations and would have caused a host of practical problems for covered entities. Another commenter, however, supported the NPRM's analysis that stated that more stringent provisions of the substance abuse provisions would apply. This commenter suggested an even stronger approach of including in the text a provision that would preserve existing federal law. Yet, one comment suggested that the regulation as proposed would confuse providers by making it difficult to determine when they may disclose information to law enforcement because the privacy regulation would permit disclosures that the substance abuse regulations would not.
Response: We appreciate the need of some covered entities to evaluate the privacy rules in light of federal requirements regarding alcohol and drug abuse records. Therefore, we provide a more detailed analysis in the "Relationship to Other Federal Laws" section of the preamble.
Comment: Some of these commenters also noted that state laws contain strict confidentiality requirements. A few commenters suggested that HHS reassess the regulations to avoid inconsistencies with state privacy requirements, implying that problems exist because of conflicts between the federal and state laws regarding the confidentiality of substance abuse information.
Response: As noted in the preamble section discussing preemption, the final rules do not preempt state laws that provide more privacy protections. For a more detailed analysis of the relationship between state law and the privacy rules, see the "Preemption" provisions of the preamble.