MEDICAL PRIVACY: Phyllis Schlafly Blasts House Bills
Conservative political analyst Phyllis Schlafly takes issue with two recently passed House bills that are intended, at least in part, to protect patients' medical information. First, Schlafly criticizes a provision in the House GOP patients' rights bill (H.R. 4250) that allows the distribution of patient records if the information is used for "health care operations" (see past coverage). That limitation, she says, is "vague and meaningless" and "does not even exclude marketing." She also notes that the provision "preempts state laws that currently protect patients from unauthorized distribution of their medical records." Schlafly also takes issue with a separate bill that was passed early this month. The Collections of Information Antipiracy Act (H.R. 2281), she contends, "creates a new federal property right to own, manage and control personal information about you, including your name, address, telephone number, medical records, and 'any other intangible material capable of being collected and organized in a systematic way.'" According to Schlafly, "[t]his new property right provides a powerful incentive for corporations to build nationwide databases of ... personal medical information." She contends the bill "will encourage health care corporations to assign a unique national health identifier to each patient." And though H.R. 2281 "grants these new federal rights only to private databases," Schlafly argues that a "loophole in the bill permits private firms to share their federally protected data with the government," in effect creating a national patient database. She urges readers to contact Congress in opposition to "all federal plans to track and monitor our health or immunization records" (8/13).
The Best Approach
An editorial in Thursday's Wichita Eagle also argues against the medical privacy provisions in the GOP patient protection legislation. It says the GOP bill "requires doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to inform patients of their confidentiality practices but allows the release of medical records without patients' consent." The editorial also criticizes the "health care operations" clause that Phyllis Schlafly noted in her column. "Even if inefficiency in transferring medical information is the result, Americans deserve to be sure that their medical histories will be available only to the people who take care of them when they're sick. What's needed is legislation that clearly would prevent medical information from access by corporate or government voyeurs who want to meddle in Americans' lives or sell them something," the editorial concludes (8/13).
Ellen Goodman Says
Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman discussed medical privacy in a column that ran yesterday. She wrote, "When the debate over managed care resumes, any true bill of rights for patients has to include an enhanced right to privacy. We need the right to limit the information insurers can demand and allow people to opt out of tell-all consent forms. We also need some pretty stringent penalties for people who sell our medical history for marketing without permission. All in all, technology can be made to protect privacy, not invade it" (8/13).