Just one business day before physicians were to have implemented the Federal Trade Commission’s Red Flag Rules, the government granted yet another temporary reprieve.

The FTC has now delayed the enforcement date until Dec. 21, 2010, for all creditors, including physicians, to implement policies to protect consumers from identity fraud. It is the third time the government has extended the deadline for certain industries to implement a program to detect, prevent, and mitigate instances of identity theft. The FTC rule classifies physicians and other small businesses as “creditors,” thus requiring them to adopt certain measures to prevent identity theft.

Last week, Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced a bill (S 3416) that would exempt certain small businesses — including physician offices with fewer than 20 employees — from the rule’s requirements. The House passed similar legislation (HR 3763) in October 2009.

According to an FTC statement, the delay will give congressional lawmakers time to consider legislation “that would affect the scope of entities covered by the rule.” The FTC also urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would “resolve any questions as to which entities are covered by the rule and obviate the need for further enforcement delays.” .

If Congress passes a bill that sets the Red Flags Rule’s compliance deadline earlier than Dec. 31, the FTC will begin enforcing the rule on the earlier date, officials said.

On May 21, 2010, the American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the decision to classify physicians as “creditors” because they allow patients to defer payments.

The medical groups also said the implementation of the Red Flags Rule could threaten doctor-patient relationships and negatively affect patient care.

[Source: Jacksonville Business Journal/iHealthBeat]