Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Federal Government: All Your Data Are Belong To Us

In his latest 10/17/2011 AmSpec column, David Catron discusses yet another aspect to ObamaCare that hasn't gotten much media attention lately -- the impending loss of medical privacy.

Here's an excerpt from, "We'd Like to Know a Little Bit About You for Our Files":
The new regulation, a copy of which can be found here if you have the intestinal fortitude to wade through 27 pages of excruciating bureaucratese, requires insurance companies to submit detailed health information about their patients to the HHS mother ship.

And the "information collection requirements" (ICRs) set forth in this Byzantine edict will not be limited to federal programs like Medicare, or even to carriers involved in Obamacare's insurance exchanges. As the rule matter-of-factly phrases it, ICRs will apply to "all health insurance issuers both inside and outside of the exchanges" and affect carriers "in the individual and small group markets." The new regulation includes several alternatives for gathering and reporting your health data, but opting out is not among the choices offered.
(Read the full text of "We'd Like to Know a Little Bit About You for Our Files".)

Given the poor track record of the US government in keeping other supposedly-confidential information secure, this should alarm every American concerned about their medical privacy.

The government's response to such concerns is: "Protecting an individual's personal health information continues to be among CMS's highest priorities." That's basically a fancy way of saying, "Trust us, we're from the government and we're here to help you."

Plus, this data is precisely the sort of tool the government needs in order to impose practice guidelines on physicians -- namely, the ability to see which doctors are adhering to the government's standards of "appropriate care" and which doctors are exercising too much independent judgment and straying from government guidelines. Of course, this is framed in terms of guaranteeing equal care for all. But in reality, such "equal care" means equally bad care for all (unless you're politically connected).

To paraphrase an old internet meme, the government is saying "All your data are belong to us!"