Nowhere to Hide your Data

Marcy ZwellingGeneral, Health ReformLeave a Comment

Published in Orange County Register: January 16, 2014

Congress is back in session and the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act to assure Americans that Congress is monitoring the healthcare.gov website. Indeed, consumers need to know that their government is at least capable of securing Americans’ privacy, but there is more.

What Congress and your doctor may have failed to tell you is that the government is actively collecting your health data. So is your pharmacy and your insurer. Moreover, that has been going on under the guise of the Health Insurance Privacy and Accountability Act. The HIPAA was enacted in 1996 by Congress and governs how data is collected and distributed.

Any “covered entity” is entitled to know your medical data and “share” it with other “covered entities.” A covered entity could be your pharmacy or a company selling you diapers. Now you know why you get those crazy mailers about diabetes when your doctor wrote you a prescription for your medication. The pharmacy “shared” your data. But, there is more.

Remember the stimulus bill? It contains provisions that govern your doctor’s electronic health records. Simply, your doctor will get a bonus from the government when he or she complies with “meaningful use” criteria.

And now Congress has the Sustainable Growth Rate formula on their plate. This is the formula used by Medicare to determine how doctors are paid. Congress thinks that the public is not capable of determining the quality of their doctor so Congress is going to “help” you make that decision. Once again, doctors are required to submit your personal data to Medicare so that the government can determine if your doctor ordered too many or enough of the “right” test. Doctors will be given a bonus or will be penalized on the data submitted.

It is a ruse for Congress to give Americans the idea that they care about your privacy. On the contrary, they are bribing your trusted physician with bonuses to “tell them your secrets.”

Marcy Zwelling-Aamot is vice-chair, American College of Private Physicians.

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