Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) without first reading it. As Nancy Pelosi noted at the time, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” The repercussions of such a move are becoming clearer by the day as legislators and policy groups learn more and more about what is actually in the bill.
The latest discovery concerns patient medical information. The federal government, under the authority of Obamacare, intends to collect and aggregate confidential patient records for anyone who maintains health insurance and sees medical providers. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has proposed a rule demanding insurance companies submit detailed health information about their customers.
In general, sharing medical records amongst providers can provide more efficiency in the medical care field. Electronic medical records, in particular, help prevent repetitive and unnecessary treatments, reduce errors, and provide instant access to a patient’s medical history. Electronic medical records can lead to a more streamlined healthcare experience for patients and providers alike, lowering healthcare costs and saving time.
Increasing medical records collaboration among providers can be accomplished through the private sector. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Allscripts recently announced a $23 million program to encourage more doctors to utilize electronic medical records.
Of course, patients should have to consent to allow providers to share their sensitive medical information and healthcare providers should be held responsible if there is a breach of confidentiality.
Under the proposed HHS rule, however, patients cannot opt out of the government having access to their medical information.
Nonetheless, HHS has proposed three potential ways to obtain patient information. The first option, a centralized approach, would require health insurers to give data directly to HHS bureaucrats in Washington, DC. The state approach would require health insurance companies to give information to the 50 states while the third option would require insurers to maintain the data themselves with government oversight.
Regardless of the option selected, this rule gives the government access to every American’s health records. Not only is this an intrusion into the private and very personal medical information of patients, but it is also troublesome when reviewing the government’s track record of managing individuals’ confidential information. There have been several incidents in recent years of bureaucrats accidently losing computer equipment and mismanaging security breaches that result in the exposure of millions of citizens’ confidential information.
One may argue that private companies have also been guilty of losing important private information to computer hacking and employee carelessness. Private companies, however, can be sued in civil court for their negligence or quickly fire responsible employees. Government, on the other hand, can more easily evade lawsuits and/or must go through a long and tedious appeals process to fire its employees.
And let’s not forget to ask why the Obama administration seeks this information. HHS argues this rule is necessary to compare performance of insurance companies and medical providers.
But why do we need the federal government to do this? Patient consumers are the people most likely to know the quality of medical providers and insurers. We don’t need Big Brother telling us which doctors to see, what medical procedures to have, and which health insurers to choose. We should trust patients to make these decisions themselves by looking at private market indicators like provider approval ratings and word of mouth.
Moreover, this intrusion into our personal medical records is the inevitable next step after accepting the premise of the unconstitutional individual insurance mandate. Once government gets this involved in the health insurance industry, they feel justified in making it their business what we do with that insurance coverage.
This latest Obamacare discovery should be labeled for what it really is – another attempt at a power grab that allows the federal government to spy into the private lives of citizens regardless of our rights to privacy and liberty.