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HHS Clarifies Health Reporting

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Nearly 5 years after the murder of football coach Ed Thomas, his family is marking a small victory in efforts to reform the nation's health system. 
   Thomas was shot and killed by a former student at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in June 2009.  Mark Becker, who had a history of mental illness, was later convicted of murder and is currently serving life in prison.
   In the years since the shooting, Thomas' family has pushed for reforms to federal rules designed to protect a patient's privacy.  The family believes that if information about Becker had been shared between a hospital and local law enforcement, Becker would not have been released.
   Today, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new guidance that clarifies what healthcare providers can disclose in order to protect health and public safety, while still ensuring a patient's privacy is protected.
   "It's tragic that we're just now getting clarity on this issue-but I pray that these guidelines and better communication between hospitals and law enforcement can save lives in the future," Rep. Bruce Braley said. "I firmly believe that we can protect medical privacy and public safety at the same time and will continue my work to strengthen both."
   Jan Thomas, the wife of Coach Ed Thomas, testified on Capitol Hill pushing for reforms.
   In a statement to CBS 2 News, her son Aaron thanked Congressman Braley for his efforts to fix what they called a flawed system. 
   "We still believe there is work to do with the HHS laws and regulations and in the area of mental health this is without a doubt a big step in the right direction.  Said Aaron Thomas.  "Our families biggest hope is that no family would go through something like we did when simple communication could eliminate such situations."
 
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