Government perverts “transparency”

February 24th, 2012 by Amy Categories: Colorado, health care No Responses
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When government uses “transparency” to watch citizens, that’s a strong signal that transparency has been perverted. Originally, a movement for citizens to shine a light on government, government now is passing laws so that it can collect legally your most private health care information. Linda Gorman and I authored a column that originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette:

State Forces People to Choose Between Medical Care, Exposing Personal Lives

By Amy Oliver Cooke and Linda Gorman

Though state officials like to preach about controlling health care costs with “health transparency,” and make all kinds of claims about helping people shop for health care, their actions suggest that the real goal is to collect and store information on your every action even if doing so increases health care costs. When government can track your every behavior, it gains a great deal of power to monitor and control your actions.

In 2010, the General Assembly passed HB 1330. It established Colorado’s All-Payer Database (APDB). The law says an Administrator can collect whatever medical data it wishes from every health care “payer” in the state. If you pay cash you are a “payer.” The Administrator can fine those who don’t comply.

The APDB was to be paid for without public money. But supporters knew that private grant funding was already in place, some of it from the same groups that bankrolled ObamaCare. The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing appointed the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC) as the administrator. It immediately removed itself from the Department and set up shop as a private 501(c)(3) with potential access to all of your health records.

CIVHC plans to sell support itself by entering into “contractual agreements” with the state to provide information on Medicaid, a backdoor way of getting its hands on the very taxpayer dollars that weren’t supposed to support it. In addition, it also plans to sell your data to various commercial interests at $50,000 a pop and charge the providers required to provide data to it.

Medical privacy? They’re pretending about that, too.

CIVHC CEO Phil Kalin recently wrote, “No identified data will be available in the datasets or reports we provide. Social Security numbers and personal health information will be stripped, a unique identified assigned.” But he also wrote that “public health agencies want to understand patterns of disease diagnosis and treatment, and whether public education campaigns are followed by increased preventive services provided to patients.” CIVHC has written of plans to monitor total spending on a defined group of individuals over time.

As University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm, points out “data can be either useful or perfectly anonymous but never both.” In short, a database that is supposed to report on treatment efficacy and value must include all the data of a clinical trial. In addition to all of the information available to your physician, pharmacist, and hospital, the APDB must include information about your personal habits, income, education, and family life.

With all this data it won’t be hard to figure out, or steal, the identity of the unidentified married white female teacher who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 160 pounds, was born on January 2, 1985, is married, has two children aged 5 and 7, had appendicitis treated at Poudre Valley Hospital 6 years ago, had her second child at Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs, had an abortion 3 years ago, is in therapy, contracted giardia on a trip to New Zealand, is on the pill, and lives in zip code 80908.

An identity that is safe in paper files kept in separate offices, becomes easy to steal when uploaded into an electronic database and InformationWeek reports that health data breaches were up 97 percent in 2011. In Britain, which just canceled its electronic health record program, stories of sales of stolen patient records are common. In 2009, files containing personalized hospital records were offered for sale for about $7 each.

And as if the APDB isn’t enough, Representative Summers and Massey, along with Senator Betty Boyd are sponsoring HB12-1242. Under that bill, you won’t be able to get prescription medications or controlled over-the-counter medications without providing a biometric identifier like a fingerprint or a retinal scan. The government doesn’t have biometric information on most law-abiding individuals. Failure to comply with its effort to get it would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, a crime as serious as the possession of child pornography or third degree assault.

The real assault is on personal liberty. The APDB needs to be repealed. Colorado officials have no business forcing people to choose between medical care and exposing their personal lives to hackers, busybody bureaucrats, and commercial interests. Nor do they have any business increasing the cost of health care by imposing requirements of unproven worth on those who work hard to pay for their own health care.

If requiring voters to show ID is an unacceptable infringement of rights, so is requiring people to choose between health care and personal privacy. Officials who fail to repeal the APDB enable the ongoing assault on individual liberty.

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