Critical Condition

Report from the Medical Privacy Front

One of the most effective challenges to Obamacare is that its misplaced efforts to “bend the cost curve” will endanger the privacy of Americans’ medical records. The Institute for Health Freedom, headed by Sue Blevins, has long emphasized this point, and the Washington Examiner has a lengthy piece today about privacy concerns raised by the U.S. House bill:

The bill calls for the secretary of health and human services to be able to quickly determine a person’s financial responsibility and eligibility for health care services, “which may include utilization of a machine-readable health plan beneficiary identification card.”

The language has been long sought after by some health reform advocates who say it will enable more streamlined and effective medical care, but the words are chilling to privacy advocates who do not want the government tracking their medical history.

“That provision is extremely worrisome,” said Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian think tank. “What kind of information would they collect?”

At a town hall meeting in Lebanon, Pa., residents were wondering the same thing and they demanded answers from Sen. Arlen Specter, a Democrat who recently switched from the GOP and who has not said how he will vote on health care reform when the Senate considers a bill this fall.

“I have spent 35 years in information technology,” one woman in the audience said to Specter. “I read this bill very closely. You are about to concentrate more information about more Pennsylvanians and Americans in this bill in one place in the computers of Washington that has ever occurred.”

Specter elicited laughs and boos when he responded, “With respect to privacy, we’ll do everything we can to stop people from breaking into the files.”

Of course, the only real way to bend the cost curve is to adopt and expand consumer-driven health-care plans. You can read more about patient power in a new report from the Council for Affordable Health Insurance.

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