What’s Inside the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) Draft & What It Means for Healthcare Marketers

What’s Inside the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) Draft & What It Means for Healthcare Marketers

On April 7, 2024, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (R-Wash.), and Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (D-Wash.), introduced a discussion draft of the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA).

This proposed federal privacy law aims to establish a cohesive federal standard. If enacted, it would have a number of impacts, including:

  • Establishing extensive privacy rights for all Americans
  • Simplifying the current complex state privacy laws
  • Enhancing transparency
  • Imposing restrictions on how businesses handle personal data
  • Introducing clear enforcement measures

Key Changes to Privacy Laws Under the APRA

The APRA represents a fresh initiative following the unsuccessful attempt to pass the American Data Privacy and Protection Act about two years earlier. Key elements of this discussion draft include:

1. Preemption of Existing State Consumer Privacy Laws

If enacted, the APRA would establish a unified federal framework that supersedes many state privacy laws, simplifying the growing patchwork of state legislation we see today. The proposed legislation aims to set a single, national standard — potentially easing the compliance efforts for businesses. However, the APRA introduces its own set of complexities, which could pose a different set of operational challenges.

Additionally, the APRA would likely preserve certain state regulations related to areas such as:

  • Consumer protection
  • Civil rights
  • Employee and student privacy
  • Data breach notification
  • Financial records
  • Electronic surveillance
  • Communication regulations
  • Healthcare

Importantly, federal laws, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), would continue to be enforceable. And provisions of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that apply to employee data and significant parts of Washington’s My Health My Data Act (MHMD) would likely not be affected by the APRA.

It’s important to note that the APRA wouldn’t modify existing obligations under other federal laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), or the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Organizations complying with these would be recognized as adhering to the APRA.

2. Private Right of Action

A contentious aspect of the draft is the private right of action. This provision in the APRA would allow individual consumers to bring private lawsuits against businesses that violate their rights under the act. Affected consumers would be able to claim actual damages, seek injunctions, obtain declaratory judgments, and recover reasonable attorney fees and costs.

The APRA’s Uncertain Future

To become law, the APRA must first be introduced in Congress, reviewed by committees, and then debated and voted on by both the House and Senate. If there are differences between the two versions, they need to be reconciled before Congress can see presidential approval. Throughout this process, the bill may undergo changes and is subject to influence by public opinion, lobbying, and other political factors. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the bill will pass in the near term or without substantial changes, but it will be important to monitor this process as it continues to develop.

Unlock Health’s Take on the APRA

Unlock keeps a close eye on these and other updates from the OCR and state regulators, recognizing their significant influence on the healthcare digital marketing landscape. Staying informed about these regulatory changes is crucial for developing effective, compliant digital marketing strategies.

A Federal Standard Could Simplify Compliance for Businesses

There has been widespread support for the adoption of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the U.S., with advocacy not only from privacy proponents but also from various business sectors. The current complex and varied state privacy laws have presented significant challenges for businesses. These include difficulties in managing complex compliance measures and the inefficiencies associated with tailoring privacy practices to suit every state. Additionally, organizations have encountered complications in consumer interactions, as privacy rights can vary based on where a person lives. This has fueled a push for a more uniform privacy framework that could streamline operations and reduce these hurdles.

Private Right of Action Could Face Opposition

Several contentious issues are expected to emerge in discussions about new privacy regulations, notably the private right of action and the overriding of state-level privacy laws by federal statutes. The possibility of granting individuals the right to sue businesses directly is likely to lead to a surge in litigation, a scenario that industry representatives are poised to contest vigorously. Additionally, state authorities are anticipated to resist federal efforts to supersede state privacy laws, particularly in light of provisions like those in the APRA.

Want Compliance Without Compromise?

For organizations navigating these complex regulations, Unlock offers expertise in digital marketing and regulatory compliance. Our team, coupled with our technology solutions, is ready to help you adapt to these changes, ensuring your marketing efforts are both effective and in line with privacy laws.

Interested in optimizing your digital marketing within the bounds of current regulations? Reach out to Unlock for guidance and support to enhance your strategies and navigate regulatory challenges with confidence.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. The author of this blog post is not a lawyer and does not provide legal services. If you have any legal questions, you should consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.