In his state of the union address last week, President Barack Obama continued to hammer at the so-called “healthcare crisis” the country faces. While the president’s tone was tempered a bit as a result of the fallout from the recent Senate race in Massachusetts, he continues to push for a major overhaul of healthcare in America. Obama’s version of “reform” includes, of course, a significantly enhanced role for the federal government. Integral to this restructuring would be a massive, national healthcare information database.
Before accelerating the move in this direction, the president needs to do himself what he admonishes the country and the Republicans in the Congress to do – Listen. If Obama did stop and listen to the views of American citizens regarding a massive, national healthcare information database, he would not receive a meek reply. He would instead hear a loud and clear, “NO.”
A recent survey conducted by the respected and nonpartisan Ponemon Institute questioned some 850 Americans from diverse backgrounds and views and from 45 different states. The just-released study found that a whopping 75 percent of Americans do not support a database of private health information in the hands of the federal government. The vast majority of Americans – 85% according to the Ponemon survey – are not even aware that such a move is in the works; that such a proposal was in fact snuck into the health care legislation passed recently by both the House and the Senate.
Were the country aware that tucked into the legislation was some $3.0 billion to be used to create an electronic health record (“EHR”) for every American, that 75% figure might be even higher. Even in the current environment, well more than half of those surveyed — 56% — want even stricter laws to prevent government from accessing their medical records without proper consent. More than two-thirds believe – correctly — that such a database will diminish their privacy rights.
For a peek at what could be expected to happen with thousands of federal bureaucrats compiling, maintaining, sharing, and otherwise manipulating health records of the most private nature imaginable on every citizen, simply consider what is occurring far too frequently even now, with the rapidly expanding number of electronic health information databases.
In November 2009, Health Net lost 1.5 million patient records but waited six months to disclose the incident. Not one patient, or a single law enforcement agency or government entity, was notified of the loss for six months. The disk that was lost not only contained personal information about nearly two million patients, but also private information on at least 5,000 physicians. Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal has vowed to conduct an investigation into the Health Net debacle – something possible when dealing with a private company, but virtually impossible to pursue against the federal government.
Another health insurance company – Universal American Insurance — sent out 80,000 postcards to Medicare recipients in the same month last fall, with each patient’s name and social security number appearing on the front of the card. The company has yet to explain how the social security numbers ended up on the postcards.
President Obama claimed in his state of the union address that “we still need healthcare reform” to protect Americans from “the worst practices of the insurance industry.” What about protecting those same Americans from the mistakes which inevitably will occur and recur, once the federal government takes over the management of 300 million-plus medical histories? If the track record of the new health bureaucracies proposed by the same president who vows to protect us from the evils of private insurance companies, is anything like the track record of national security bureaucrats who let the Christmas Day underwear bomber slip through the multi-billion dollar national security database system, then we all have much to worry about.