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Health Care Reform: Government To Have Access To Americans Medical Records
3/19/2010 11:16:00 PM by Daniel T. Zanoza, Executive Director - RFFM.org
If anyone has time to go through the more than 2,700 pages in the Senate version of the current health care reform bill, there are some aspects of this legislation that should send a chill down the spine of any American. But, for a moment, let's take time to review how medical records have been shared in the past.
Whenever you saw a new physician, one of the first things they needed was your past medical history, specifically related to what a doctor might need to know about your treatment. This new doctor would ask you to sign a release form to be sent to a physician who treated you previously to share specific information. These forms were only good for a prescribed period of time and detailed exactly what information you did and did not want shared with the new doctor. For example, a specialist might need to know about any pre-existing conditions which might have an impact on a medical procedure he or she might perform.
Also, you simply might be seeing a new general physician who would need access to your past medical history. The bottom line is medical information was always kept in-house, unless the patient requested their medical records be sent to a new health care provider.
As a journalist, I have found that relating information from an anecdotal perspective is the best way to get a point across. Therefore, let me share a recent experience I had during a visit to my family doctor, who I have been seeing for over five years, who works at a medical center which serves a small town in central Illinois. I struck up a conversation with one of the nurses who collected data, including my weight, blood pressure, what medications I was currently taking, etc. "We are putting all of our medical records into a database," the nurse told me. Immediately a red flag went up, so I asked her who will have access to this information? "Oh, all your medical records will be on a computer, but no one outside this facility will have access to your private records."
Now anyone who knows the least bit about computers understands full well once information is downloaded into such a system, it can be readily shared with others, accessed by hackers or find its way into the hands of those who should not be privy to such information.
But let's get back to Obama's health care reform plan. One of the provisions within the bill is that all Americans medical information should be compiled and stored electronically. Supposedly, this data will strictly be meant to stay in-house, as my nurse ensured me it would be. However, if health care reform becomes law, if it desires, the government will have access to the medical records of every American citizen. Of course, those who support health care reform will say nothing will change regarding privacy laws. But the simple fact medical providers will have this data on their systems will make it that much easier for the government to further intrude in our private lives.
For example, the government could compile data on what ethnic groups experience the most heart attacks. Or, even more intrusive, health care reform could open up records regarding an individual's psychiatric history or whether a patient went through an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program. Our medical lives could become an open book. And, most assuredly, the government would find reasons why such data would serve the greater public good.
The information obtained by the government could and probably would be used to determine whether a patient "deserved" care in their later years, i.e., was an individual a smoker? If so, should they be entitled to extensive care concerning conditions related to the fact they smoked? This analogy could be drawn out to include any and every possibility, in order to eventually ration health care to those who deserve it because they led healthy lives and those who did not.
It has already been demonstrated health commissions will be created under Obamacare which will determine who will be entitled to medical services. Last year, a federal panel came out with a finding which said women ages 40 - 49 did not need yearly mammograms. This contradicted past medical findings which clearly indicated women in this age group should have mammograms annually in order to detect breast cancer in its early stages. Unbelievably, one of the panel's rationale regarding their decision suggested annual mammograms for women 40 - 49 subjected them to greater stress and anxiety. Of course, the federal panel's decision was met by a firestorm of criticism from experts in the field of breast cancer and psychologists who pointed out the obvious regarding the fact women not having mammograms in this very important period of their lives would indeed suffer through more anxiety and trepidation concerning their health.
Under Obamacare, there would be similar panels, staffed by government bureaucrats and statisticians who would hand down decisions based on information other than data provided by medical experts, as was the case with the decision made by the federal panel regarding mammograms. The bottom line here would be the rationing of health care services to save money, ultimately excluding groups which did not fall within a statistical matrix.
Without a national database which included detailed information about the medical status of all Americans, these panels would not be able to function. Therefore, ultimately, information--compiled in good faith by doctors who have private practices or physicians who work for larger medical centers--will be made available to the government whose intentions may not be in the best interest of a patient.
The passing of comprehensive health care reform may be decided within days. There is much more at stake here than meets the eye of the casual observer. A database containing the medical records of every individual in the United States will be a treasure trove for those who believe government has all the answers.
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