The Federal Trade Commission announced today that it is once again extending the deadline for enforcing its “Red Flags” Rule, while Congress considers legislation that would affect the scope of entities covered by the Rule. The FTC is delaying enforcement of the Rule until December 31, 2010 in response to a request from members of Congress who are working to finalize legislation that would limit the scope of business covered by the Rule.

Last month, we blogged about whether the Red Flag Rules apply to medical care providers.  According to the FTC, they may also apply to retailers.

The Federal Trade Commission’s recently released “how-to” guide says that the Red Flag Rules apply to “retailers that offer financing or help consumers get financing from others, say, by processing credit applications.” However, most retailers have been caught off guard by this interpretation, since they are not accustomed to being considered “creditors.” Fortunately for them, in the nick of time for the May 1st compliance deadline, the FTC extended the deadline to August 1, 2009, giving retailers time to put their policies in place in a thoughtful and reasoned manner.

The health care industry has been waiting for resolution of the question: Do the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Red Flag Rules apply to health care providers? With the May 1st compliance deadline looming, health care providers need to know.

The answer seems to depend on whom you ask. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the American Medical Association (“AMA”) have been in discussions regarding this point for the last several months.* Most recently, in a February 4th letter to the AMA, the FTC reiterated its earlier position stating that the Red Flag Rules apply to health care providers who regularly defer payment for medical services. In a February 23rd letter responding to the FTC, the AMA “strongly objected” to the FTC’s interpretation and alleged that the FTC failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) since it did not explain in advance its rules’ application to health care providers nor provide the public with notice and opportunity to comment. In summary, the AMA asked the FTC to either withdraw its interpretation or conduct a new rulemaking procedure that complies with the APA.