Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Obama Wants Your Health Records


By Kerri Toloczko, reposted from biggovernment.com

The federal government, as part of Obamacare implementation, is trying to figure out how to get its hands on everyone’s healthcare records.

It may seem like a small boat in the ocean of bureaucratic incursion that is Obamacare, but given the construction of the new law and the priority its authors and supporters place on “bending the cost curve,” allowing government access to American’s most personal records is a critical step in its effort to control healthcare costs at the expense of care.

The path to achieving this is to use treatment outcomes and other health data as instruments of rationing and denial of care through the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research — created by President Obama — and based on European rationing boards.

There are several ways for the government to access our health records, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is already contemplating options. One would be for the federal government to collect them directly. Another is mandating that the states, as part of Obamacare’s new healthcare exchanges, collect the information and pass it along to the federal government. A third would be to force private insurance companies to make the data available to the feds.

Notwithstanding any discussion of the government’s right to our private records, none of these are good ideas but not as bad as another option that some have floated; let a private contractor bid on the project to collect and maintain the information on behalf of the government.

Allowing a private company to access everyone’s healthcare records is an open invitation to disaster and a gross invasion of personal privacy. And more so as about the only company that could handle the job with any degree of competency appears to be Google.

Google’s business model is tracking and collecting preferred sites and other information from its users. Everything from favorite restaurants to marital status is fair game for the Internet behemoth, which uses sophisticated algorithms to identify who accesses the web in a given home — capturing birthdates, age, gender, imputed income and other information useful to determining what products and services might be of interest to a person when they go online.

Google collects and utilizes this information whether it has permission from the user or not, which is where the issue of private healthcare records comes into play.

Having those records, even if they are walled off and protected under law, does not mean they cannot be swept for information that is useful in other contexts. Everything from medical procedures you have had and their outcomes, medicines you take, your family health history, and details of your health insurance policy will be open to inclusion in Google data collection and marketing efforts through which the world’s largest search engine already generates much of its revenue.

Under a Google-driven collection of personal health data, there would be no “opt-in,” no “opt-out,” just your private records ripe for Internet picking.

The computerized healthcare record itself is helpful and useful. Many private studies have shown that electronic records can lead to enormous cost savings and cut down significantly on medical errors, helping to streamline costs and improve the quality of care available in hospitals today.

The problem is not that the information exists; it is how it can be used or, in this case, potentially abused. Even if no one can see the records, the possibility that they can be “data mined” if left in private hands is so strong that everyone should be concerned.

Medical records should be the property of the patient, and only the patient – an idea Congress and the states should aggressively seek to enshrine in law. Service providers and insurance companies need access to certain health information, but no outside entity should be allowed to touch them without a patient’s direct permission.

Google has turned the collection, analysis and recycling of personal information into an art form, and it shouldn’t be allowed to practice this art as the handmaiden of government with our health information. When it comes to records containing our private health data, a search engine should not be allowed any where near them. Nor, for that matter, should anyone else.

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