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U.S. law shields Stroger, son says

Thursday, June 15, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Ald. Todd Stroger (8th) on Wednesday used the federal statute that protects the privacy of medical records to fend off questions about his stroke-stricken father, Cook County Board President John Stroger.
Six days after John Stroger was rushed back to the hospital, Todd Stroger refused to reveal either the nature of the emergency or the timing of his father's release.
"He's in the hospital because he needed to go," Todd Stroger, who has expressed an interest in replacing his ailing father, told reporters after attending a City Council committee hearing.
"Nothing's different, so I really don't have anything to say today. ... He's doing what you do in the hospital. That's all I can tell you. ... The president, like anyone else who's had an ailment, is trying to get better and ... that's what people care about. ... I'm not making any more comments. There's nothing new to say now. ... I think I've told you enough already."
Apparently referring to his long-standing promise to announce a decision on his father's political future next month, Todd Stroger said, "Everyone knows when July comes, don't they? See me then. ... July will be here soon enough, and that is plenty of time. ... In July, you will get an answer to all your questions."
Asked whether his father would be released from the hospital Wednesday, Todd Stroger said, "If I knew, I probably wouldn't tell you, but I don't know."
Pressed to explain his decision not to reveal why his father was rushed back to the hospital, Todd Stroger said, "For one thing, HIPAA. It's not my information. It's John Stroger's."
He was referring to the privacy rider tacked on to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
John Stroger suffered what his doctors described as a "serious" stroke the week before the March 21 primary and hasn't been seen or heard from since. He was released from the Rehabilitation Institute just in time to celebrate his 77th birthday but returned to the hospital last Thursday. It was his second hospitalization in 10 days.
Beavers shoots down column
Details of Stroger's condition were not known, continuing the veil of secrecy that has surrounded him for three months. A spokeswoman at Rush University Medical Center said she did not have a John Stroger listed in the patient directory. In his last hospital stay, the family used privacy laws to prevent him from being listed as a patient.
The latest in a series of medical setbacks came two days after Ald. William Beavers (7th), self-designated spokesman for the Stroger family, declared the board president on the mend.
On Wednesday, Beavers watched from a few feet away as Todd Stroger fended off reporters' questions about his father's condition.
Beavers had nothing to say about John Stroger. But he did shoot down a column in the Chicago Defender that seeks to promote him as a candidate for appointment by Mayor Daley to replace convicted city Clerk Jim Laski to avoid a rift between South Side and West Side blacks in the race for County Board president.
"That's a false story put out by the Defender. ... I'm not interested in [becoming] clerk. The clerk has two things that he does: city stickers and dog licenses. Why would I want to step down in power and become a clerk? . . . More logical would be to elevate yourself -- not go down in status," said Beavers, chairman of the City Council's Budget Committee.
Replacing John Stroger on the November ballot would be a step up. For the umpteenth time, Beavers was asked whether he's interested in that job, if and when the stroke forces his longtime friend to retire. "I'm interested in President Stroger coming back and taking his job," Beavers said. And if he can't? "We'll see," the alderman said.


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