Republican Pennsylvania State Senator and Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano proposed rolling back medical privacy protections during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Friday report from the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
The Capital-Star located several of Mastriano’s memos and press releases from 2020 — which were reportedly removed from his website — through an Internet archival resource. In one such document from March 17, 2020, Mastriano said he was concerned that “existing HIPAA regulations are threatening the lives of our citizens…” He went on:
I am concerned that existing HIPAA regulations are threatening the lives of our citizens and depriving Pennsylvania residents of knowing if – and when – they were exposed to a contagious person. This emergency measure is necessary to share vital and life-saving medical information with those who may have been subjected to this dangerous virus. The new information that would become available would help us combat the spread of the Coronavirus.
Mastriano, who has since built his brand around “personal freedom,” introduced a measure calling up the federal government to temporarily suspend HIPAA and “allow for full disclosure of details that are currently considered private, and are not disclosed to the public.” He said:
It is deeply concerning that the federal government did not proactively roll back this dangerous policy, which endangers our people. This situation changes daily – it remains my top priority to do what is in the best interest of protecting public health, and this measure will increase transparency in an effort to quell the spread of this virus.
According to the report, the March 17 release was the first-term state senator’s “first official release referencing COVID-19.”
“At the time, the state had reported just under 100 total COVID cases. [Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf] would order non-“life sustaining” businesses to shutter in two days’ time; schools had only been ordered closed until March 30, and no one had yet died of the virus,” the Capital-Star reported.
The senator followed up the interview with at least two more similar official releases, including a March 19 letter to then-President Donald Trump calling for the suspension of HIPAA.
“Existing federal law prevents the sharing of names of COVID-19 persons, and this endangers the lives of those who come in close contact with them,” the letter reads in part.
The senator also put out a release on March 26 about a bill that would get rid of state-level confidentiality protections during a disaster declaration. The statement reads:
Currently, the law allows the Health Department to keep records and reports of contagious diseases strictly confidential,” said Mastriano. “Unfortunately, the Health Department has been using this outdated law to withhold life-saving information during the ongoing pandemic. This change to the 1955 law only impacts information related to a pandemic.
“It is disheartening that neighboring states have been more transparent about potential cases,” he added.
The Capital-Star noted that many of theses statements were no longer on Mastriano’s official state website as of March 2022.
The gubernatorial hopeful additionally told an ABC News affiliate in 2020 that privacy is less important when confronting a “contagious disease.”
“We have to protect their privacy, but when it comes to a contagious disease, we should be able to know, ‘yes, this person had it,’ and so then the word will go out if I’ve had contact with him or her,” he told ABC-27, adding that failure to do so would mean Gov. Wold and then-Secretary of Health Rachel Levine have “blood on their hands.”
Mastriano’s campaign and Senate office did not reply to request for comment, according to the report. Notably, his proposal to roll back Pennsylvania’s medical privacy law never advanced out of committee.
Tim Murtaugh, an advisor to gubernatorial competitor Lou Barletta, told the publication that Mastriano’s proposal was a “dangerous idea.”
“Directing the government to broadcast the personal medical information of private citizens is a dangerous idea that should never even be considered,” Murtaugh said. “[Barletta] wants to keep the government out of people’s lives as much as possible, not create a frenzy by slapping a ‘Scarlet C’ on people who contract COVID-19.”
Recent polls show the Republican primary race as very much a two-man battle between Barletta and Mastriano. But with Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf (D) leaving office, Republicans have a clear chance to flip the governor’s mansion. Recent polls, Barletta said, are a “reflection on what we’re seeing on the ground,” as he has a “huge grassroots campaign.”
Our @trafalgar_group #poll of #PA #Gov likely ‘22 #GOP Primary Election voters (2/1-4)
See Report: https://t.co/mnYLEJpTlw pic.twitter.com/BSRtOHGURo
— The Trafalgar Group (@trafalgar_group) February 11, 2022
A poll conducted by the Trafalgar Group from February 1 to 4 among 1,070 likely Republican primary voters found Barletta leading state Sen. Doug Mastriano by 4.2 percent, receiving 24.1 percent support compared to Mastriano’s 19.9 percent.
Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on Twitter.