Unique health identifier numbers: The ultimate invasion of your privacy!

Published 20 years ago -  - 20y ago 13

“Bow down before the one you serve. You’re going to get what you deserve…”
—Nine-Inch Nails.

“Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled
by perpetually rejuvenated illusions”
—Albert Einstein.

I was recently reminded of the impending deadline for the public comment period concerning the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) new Final Privacy Rule. To mark the beginning of the largest and most intrusive “dataveillance” base in the history of the world and the death of private practice healthcare in America, I thought a review of HIPAA, the privacy debate, and the subsequent stealth implementation of unique health identifier numbers would be prudent for several reasons: First, despite overwhelming public apprehension, every individual, employer, health plan, and health care provider will be forced to comply with this law and the information contained within the number will not and cannot remain private while in the hands of our government. Non-compliance with these Leviathanrules and regulations will be punishable by fines and imprisonment. This will become the official National ID system desperately wanted by our friendly government. Indeed, these “marks” will usher in a new official era of government control of the individual and the health industry. Finally, I hope this inquest will illustrate how our government actually works and how it is unified towards the common goal of control and “The Third Way” despite the empty rhetoric of feigned liberty and differing ideologies.

“Trust me, I’m from the government.”

HIPPA was created “. to make sure that you could take your insurance with you from one job to the next. To make sure that in this new economy, you would continue to have access to health insurance, as you moved more frequently from job to job,” stated the recently crowned Secretary of Health and Human Service king, Tommy Thompson. However, this is a mere sugarcoating of these intrusive and controlling laws stated by a new administration bent on also deceiving its slaves. Donna Shalala had a different, but equally dishonest view, back in 1997; ” Until today, Americans had no federal privacy protections for their medical records.these standards are an important step forward in protecting the privacy of some of our most personal information.” She added, “We cannot allow the absence of privacy protections to compromise the quality of care in our nation.” This statement reeks with the philosophy of responsive communitarianism. You know, balancing individual rights with the common good of the community and social responsibilities. However, how can a “community” determine the extent of those rights when it is really a collection of individuals? It can’t because only individuals choose, act, and pursue interests. Therefore, this philosophy is only a euphemism for mob rule. A perfect fit, by the way, for our Social Democracy, but I digress. My favorite statement from Donna Shalala reads, “Gone are the days when our family doctor kept records sealed away in an office file cabinet. Patient information is now accessed and exchanged quickly.” God knows the majority of us incompetent Americans need Big Brother to handle our most private records by keeping them out of a sealed locked cabinet in some doctors office. She also rambled on about the five principles reflected in this law. Tommy didn’t mention these: Consumer Control, Boundaries, Accountability, Public Responsibility, and Security. Remember, the buzzwords are “protection” and “privacy”. These are the thoughts the federal government wants you to envision as it legislates the complete opposite. Ultimately, this law will totally alter, for the worse, the relationship between our federal government and its citizens. Again, it can be enlightening to Americans when they finally understand every new administration is essentially the same old administration in an otherwise unified government seeking to continue the same overall socialistic plans. Nobel, isn’t it?

HIPPA is a gargantuan law also known as the Kennedy-Kassebaum Act. Specifically, this is a wildly complex myriad of rules and regulations meant to:

1) Standardize patient health, administrative, and financial data in an electronic format.

2) Provide unique health identifies for individuals, employers, health plans, and health Providers.

3) Provide security standards protecting the confidentiality and integrity of “individually identifiable health information,” past, present, or future.

For the rest of us, this means the government is going to assign everyone a number, collect all of their medical records, store them in a giant centralized computer bank, and decide who or what entity has access to them. Because the final rule does not cover procurement or banking of blood, sperm, or body tissue, your DNA can be recorded and stored without your consent. Did anyone see the movie Gattica? This effects all healthcare organizations, physicians, health plans, employers, public health authorities, life insurers, clearinghouses, billing agencies, information systems vendors, service organizations, and universities. But I sarcastically repeat, I don’t think the Federal Government wants this law to appear as a hostile takeover of individual freedoms or healthcare. Nineteen separate security policies must go into place to meet 61 specific conditions. Non-compliance with these confusing and convoluted regulations can mean fines up to $25K for minor infractions and up to $250K and imprisonment for “knowingly” misusing identifiable health information. Honest, this isn’t a government takeover of healthcare. However, compliance deadlines start exactly on 02/01/2003.

Let’s quickly review the costs. Unbelievably, there are differing views. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) believes that these added regulations will actually reduce costs. Remembering that the government generated these figures, costs are estimated to be $17.6 billion and supposed savings are estimated $29.9 billion over ten years. Clearly, we are actually going to make money according to the government. These mandates equate to more than 33 cents for every new healthcare dollar spent. Along with this tax money, Congress has been called upon to create a new $1 billion “innovation fund” to help subsidize promising projects and communicate the necessary and significant new changes in the health care system. Blue cross and Blue Shield Association, however, estimated the costs of added regulations alone at $43 billion. Honestly, whom do you believe? By the way, doesn’t this all sound very efficient? The point is; HIPPA is going to create a huge bureaucracy and cost an enormous amount of money. Does this legislation sound socialistic?

The Final Federal Privacy Rule was needed, get this, when it was discovered that what our government stated and what it actually attempted to write into law differed drastically. A governmental press release dated October 29, 1999 claimed these new privacy regulations would improve privacy, when in fact, it actually prohibited doctors from obtaining patient’s consent before releasing personal medical information for many purposes, states Sue Blevins, founder and president of the Institute for Health Freedom, a non-partisan, non-profit Washington-based think tank. Because of this major discrepancy, 52,000 individuals and organizations submitted comments to the HHS. What did the government do? You guessed it; they reworded and resubmitted the supposed new improved privacy rules titled the Final Federal Medical Privacy Rule. I feel better just knowing this, don’t you? The real issue is whether there were any significant changes or just empty rhetoric. Here are the updated myths vs. the actual facts according to Blevins and Kaigh, you be the judge:

Myth # 1: The final federal medical privacy rule provides Americans a new right to medical  privacy.

Fact: The rule creates a massive federal mandate that requires every doctor and other healthcare practitioner to share patient’s records with the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services without patient consent. This can include an individual’s psychotherapy notes. Ironically, the Office of Civil Rights will enforce this mandate.

Myth # 2: Individuals are guaranteed the right to restrict others from accessing their medical records without their consent.

Fact: Under this mandate records can be released without patient consent for the broadly defined purposes of oversight of the healthcare system, FDA monitoring, public health surveillance, foreign government  collaborations, law enforcement activities, judicial and administrative proceedings, and licensure and disciplinary actions. Moreover, once the data has been disclosed to one party, the final rule no longer protects the information.

Myth # 3: The final rule ensures that consent is not coerced.

Fact: Healthcare providers may refuse to treat patients if they won’t give consent to share their medical records. Patients are not guaranteed the right to restrict access to their medical records for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations.

Myth # 4: Americans will be able to get a full accounting of when and to whom their medical records have been disclosed.

Fact: Individuals receive only a limited account, which is unrelated to most healthcare activities such as treatment, payment, or healthcare operations.

Myth # 5: The final rule provides serious penalties for breaches of medical privacy.

Fact: Patients have no guaranteed recourse other than to complain to the HHS. The HHS “may” investigate and individuals do not have the right to sue.

Myth # 6: All individually identifiable health information held or disclosed by health organizations are covered by the final regulation.

Fact: The regulations do not cover your DNA and the lack of privacy protections will have far-reaching effects.

Myth # 7: The medical privacy rule provides consumers greater control over the flow of their electronic medical records.

The final federal medical privacy rule fosters the development of a national health information network through standardized codes for for electronic transactions of payment of medical care. Everybody will receive unique health identifiers and, therefore, each patient’s visit to a doctor will be easily tracked.

Thus, despite many public objections concerning the purposed privacy issues enveloped in HIPPA and its Final Privacy Rule, the HHS essentially reword and repackaged the same laws. In a sense, nothing in the original HIPPA law was altered. The joke is on us. Quick, someone needs to blame a couple of the Republicans or Democrats. Wait a second, I remember; this law passed the House and Senate with bi-partisan support.

One of the ultimate goals achieved through the enactment of this law is a national I. D. system. Over the last several years, the federal government abandoned several attempts to impose a National I.D. system and other intrusive surveillance schemes on the American people secondary to public outrage. Examples include: The FIDC’s mandate for all banks to adopt “Know Your Customers” procedures which generated over 250,000 negative responses, and subsequently, moved Congress to repeal the legislation. For similar reasons, the provision in the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that would have allowed drivers licenses to become de facto national identification cards was also repealed. However in this instance, our government simply cloaked the I.D. system inside so-called medical privacy and protection laws. The result: HIPPA will not fail to deliver this time around and our federal government will finally have its national I.D. system. This further illustrates how the entire government shares a common vision for the future that supersedes any rhetoric related to party differences. If you think the “people”, in some way, shape, or form, control our federal government, I have a chip I would like to sell you and slide under your skin, which will make it easier for you to actually carry your medical records around with you. Now that’s portability. Never mind, there really is a chip and it contains a smart card and it can carry much more than just medical records. But that’s another story.

Another example of how our government really works can be illustrated by examining the way the Final Privacy Law was reviewed and altered. After the Dept. of HHS received thousands of complaints and decided to misrepresent their intentions with new, but essentially unchanged, legislation, HHS only consulted multiple other governmental agencies including: the Dept. of Justice, Dept. of Commerce, Social Security Administration, Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Labor, Office of Personal Management, and the Office of Management and Budget. More importantly, HHS did not consult with any privacy or civil liberty groups or representatives of physician groups such as psychologists, medical researchers, general practitioners, or nurses. In other words, the federal government did not consult the very citizens the legislation would affect the most. Nor did the government consult the health professionals they desperately seek to control about the possible impact of the purposed regulatory schemes on patient confidentiality. That’s what we call, “government by the people for the people.” Beware of any government, which confers with itself about changing its laws.

Are you worried yet? Are you asking yourself, “Why haven’t I heard more about this?” Well my friends, you’re not alone. A recent Gallup pole survey conducted on behalf of the Institute for Health Freedom showed:

78% of Americans report it is very important that their medical records are kept confidential.

84 % of Americans have not heard or read anything recently about new federal regulations that would change the rules regarding access to medical records.

92% of Americans oppose giving government agencies access to medical records.

88% of Americans oppose storing medical records in a computerized database.

87% of Americans are unaware of a federal law regarding unique health identifiers.

91% of Americans would not support a plan requiring unique health identifiers.

95% of Americans feel permission should be obtained prior to release of medical records.

96% of Americans feel that information given to their doctor should not be included in a national databank.

86% of Americans are against genetic testing without permission.

“Government for the people by the people,” right? The HIPAA and subsequent Final Privacy Rule create rules and regulations that most of the American people obviously do not desire. We have to ask why. Will these laws improve our lives or country in the long run? I don’t think so. Is this law going to allow us to “take our insurance with us from one job to the next?” Possibly, but I doubt it. By the way, why are we going to be changing jobs so frequently in the new global economy Secretary Thompson? Are these rules and regulations going to make the health field more efficient? That is impossible, Medicare guidelines and regulations already consume 110,000 pages of text. In the actual world, HIPPA is about control and money, which are essentially identical. Healthcare spending continues to balloon; in 1999, $1.2 trillion was spent on national healthcare. Ironically, healthcare spending only started to spiral upwards in the 60’s after the Medicare system was instituted. Back in the 60’s there were no restrictions. Medicare was fee for service and no questions were asked. As the bureaucracy, rules, guidelines, and regulations expanded, so did the tax bills. Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, our federal government has ingeniously been taking over the healthcare system for decades. Eventually, the rules and regulations will become so convoluted and costly, a doctor will not be able to financially survive in private practice. Though HIPAA legislation, the federal government will be able to control, track, and manipulate its citizens very effectively and take over the entire healthcare system. Your probably thinking, “Didn’t we reject a nationalized healthcare system in 1993?” Well, wake up America; this is the way your government really works: As a unified Fabian turtle creeping towards “The Third Way” somewhere between socialism and capitalism. This has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans; they both are unified in this and other endeavors such as education, which continue to be hidden from most Americans by the empty rhetoric of supposed differing political ideologies.

For the people, it is mostly about trust. Can we trust the government to guard our most treasured and private medical secrets? Most Americans, in general, do not trust the government. The Founding Fathers practically wrote this basic mistrust into our Constitution. Its called freedom and it is secured through individualism and privacy. Yet, despite assurances from Big Brother, I suggest any two-bit hacker will be able to obtain and use the private medical data for any purpose. But I’m not really worried about a two-bit hacker. I’m worried about how my government is going to use my personal data to control and manipulate me. Dick Armey said as much in a letter dated March 5, 2001, “The purposed HIPPA regulations, however, may actually have the opposite effect, putting personal identifiable information at greater risk than exist today.” After all, “hackers were able to take total control over the Veteran’s benefit records including sensitive mental health data.” Every other day, we hear about hackers breaking into every imaginable system. Every other day, we hear about security systems being overrun. Therefore, I suggest that our records will not and cannot remain safe in a giant centralized data bank administered by the federal government.

There is someone who will fight for us in Congress: A House Republican named Ron Paul. Often times he seems like a lone voice of reason in Congress. He introduced H.R. 220, which sought to repeal the unique health identifiers once and for all. This was not passed, but he did manage to temporarily halt funding for one year by amending appropriations bill H.R. 4577 which is used to fund the HHS, Labor, and Education Departments. This was a minor victory for freedom. Ultimately, however, this amendment will prove ineffective because nothing less than the total repeal of HIPPA will suffice.

Can anything else be done? Other than complaining, I do not think so. The public comment period for the Final Privacy Rule ends March 30, 2001. Despite overwhelming opposition to these policies and an ongoing public comment period, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics reports the Final Privacy Rule will be effective April 14, 2001. This will be followed with total compliance by 2003. The public comment period is obviously just lip service. Why would the federal government need anything else? As a culture, we are uninvolved, uninformed, and unintelligent. The “people” are not treated with respect because they are not respected.

In summary, the entire Federal Government, and not just the Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, or Conservatives, and in a bi-partisan effort, passed the HIPPA legislation. This was contrary to overwhelming public opinion, and worse, most of the public was and continues to be unaware of this legislation. Our federal government often utilizes these semi-stealth techniques with the aide of the major media outlets to suppress coverage while passing outrageous legislation. I repeat, this is your true government at work. It is a unified entity seeking complete control of its citizens and eventually every private industry.

When you visit the doctor for an illness or routine physical sometime in 2004, some of your blood will be drawn for tests. As the cold stainless steel needle plunges deep into your cephalic vein, just remember the government does not have to inform you that you were assigned a unique health identifier number, the government is not required to inform you that your medical records are going to be stored in a massive federal data bank, the government does not have to tell that your DNA was processed and stored along with your unique number, the government does not have to disclose when or why your information was given to whomever, and lastly, remember you can’t do a damn thing about it. This is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Welcome to the Social Democratic States of America.

Again, I will remind everyone; until we start looking beyond the pedestrian concept of a supposed two party system that confines and strangles our culture, person, and politics, our Federal Government will continue to operate as an undivided undetected monster bent on obtaining more and more control and power until we are slaves.

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