Friday, November 20, 2009

Senate Mandatory Health-Insurance Bill Infringes on Choice and Privacy

/PRNewswire/ -- The Senate's newly released health-reform bill ("Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act") infringes on Americans' health-insurance choices and medical privacy, says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom (IHF) -- a patients' rights group in Washington, D.C.

The bill would (among many other provisions):

-- Require nearly every legal resident to buy government-sanctioned
health insurance;
-- Increase Medicare payroll taxes on individuals earning over $200,000
per year and couples earning over $250,000 per year (raising $54
billion in taxes over 10 years);
-- Slap a new tax on "Cadillac" health plans (high-cost plans offered by
employers to their employees) -- raising $149 billion in taxes over 10
years (2010-2019); and
-- Finish laying the building blocks for a computerized "Nationwide
Health Information Network" (NHIN) without patients' consent.

Section 937 of the bill, titled "Dissemination and Building Capacity for Research," includes the following provision:

''(f) BUILDING DATA FOR RESEARCH.--The Secretary [of Health and Human Services] shall provide for the coordination of relevant Federal health programs to build data capacity for comparative clinical effectiveness research, including the development and use of clinical registries and health outcomes research data networks, in order to develop and maintain a comprehensive, interoperable data network to collect, link, and analyze data on outcomes and effectiveness from multiple sources, including electronic health records." [Emphasis added.] (See pages 1683-684 of the bill.)

Dissemination of the collected data will be governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) privacy rule, which actually permits patients' personal health information to be shared among more than 600,000 organizations without patients' consent. "Combining a mandatory national electronic medical-records data network with the so-called HIPAA privacy rule means patients will lose control over the flow of their personal health information," says Robin Kaigh, an attorney and medical-privacy advocate. "The only way to ensure that patients control their personal health data is to make sure patient consent is obtained before data can be shared."

IHF points out that Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health, recently stressed in U.S. News & World Report:

"...[T]he doctor-patient relationship was never meant to be other than confidential and privileged and solely for the benefit of the patient. Patients expect it, or they would not be forthcoming. And doctors take the Hippocratic oath, pledging to hold sacred their patients' secrets. This pledge of confidentiality, however, is now challenged by a world where computers rule and health information falls into many hands. One might well ask whether medical privacy is just too outmoded a concept for today's information-hungry world. We had better decide...."

Do you really wish to have your personal health information become part of a Nationwide Health Information Network without your consent?

IHF is encouraging citizens to call their Senators as soon as possible and tell them to "vote no on a motion to proceed" on Senator Reid's mandatory health-insurance bill, because it infringes on patients' choice and privacy.

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