Monday, May 20, 2013

Catron on IRS and Medical Records

David Catron asks, "Has the IRS Already Seized Your Medical Records?"

I was particularly struck by this section:
You will note that the person from whom these records were stolen was not a doctor or a nurse, but a data analyst who was carrying around huge amounts of medical information on a laptop. And this is where you should begin to have real fears for your privacy. Your medical records, once the province of highly trained medical professionals, are now routinely accessed by all manner of individuals uninvolved in your medical treatment. And many of these individuals are not closely supervised by medical professionals. Indeed, many of the people who have access to your medical records are not supervised by anyone.

For example, if you visit the ER tonight, the hospital will send a claim to your insurance company. Before that happens, however, a diagnosis code must be assigned to your record. Who does that? Typically, it is someone in her pajamas who uses a laptop to remote into the hospital’s IT system from home after the kids are in bed. She is not a physician or a nurse, yet she peruses your records, interprets your doctor’s notes, and then chooses an ICD-9 code from a drop-down box. It is likely that no one employed at the hospital has ever met this person in the flesh. Hospitals increasingly connect with such contract coders via outside agencies.

Assuming this coder is completely honest and very productive, as are most of them, what happens if her eldest son is addicted to narcotics and knows that she has routine access to the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of thousands of people? He has a golden opportunity to commit identity theft. All he has to do is wait until she forgets to lock her screen when she gets up to toss a casserole into the oven or run to the bathroom. If he is computer savvy, and what adolescent isn’t, he can access and steal your information in a matter of minutes. Such opportunities arise every minute of every day, all across the nation.

The point here is not that electronic medical records are inherently bad. It is rather that, in their mad rush to pass Obamacare and the stimulus package, the President and his accomplices on Capitol Hill mandated clunky, insecure systems that can be abused by politicized government agencies, mismanaged by innocent but incompetent bureaucrats, or even breached by the kid next door...

(Read the full text of "Has the IRS Already Seized Your Medical Records?")