Know Thy Enemy

Robert Pear had an article in yesterday’s NYT about the privacy concerns inherent in putting health records online. He explains some of the safeguards Members of Congress and consumer rights groups are advocating:

One of the proposed safeguards would outlaw the sale of any personal health information in an electronic medical record, except with the patient’s permission.

Another would allow patients to impose additional controls on certain particularly sensitive information, like records of psychotherapy, abortions and tests for the virus that causes AIDS. Patients could demand that such information be segregated from the rest of their medical records.

Under other proposals being seriously considered in Congress, health care providers and insurers would have to use encryption technology to protect personal health information stored in or sent by computers. Patients would have a right to an accounting of any disclosures of their electronic data. Health care providers and insurers would have to notify patients whenever such information was lost, stolen or used for an unauthorized purpose. And patients — or state officials acting on their behalf — could recover damages from an entity that improperly used or disclosed personal health information.

Seems pretty reasonable, right? Well, here’s Ms. Karen Ignagni – the CEO of the health insurance lobby – arguing against protecting your privacy:

In a letter to Congressional leaders, Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group for insurers, expressed “serious concern about privacy provisions being considered for inclusion in the economic stimulus bill.”

She criticized, in particular, a proposal that would require health care providers to obtain the consent of patients before disclosing personal health information for treatment, payment or “health care operations.”

Such a requirement, she said, could cripple efforts to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, which often require coordination of care among many specialists.

Ladies and gentleman, meet the head of AHIP. This is the same woman who is going to claim to be listening to you as she lobbies for health reform legislation that makes more money for health insurance companies and recommends a federal bailout should you fall into medical debt.

Health insurance companies exist to profit by denying you care when you need it most. As this fight heats up, don’t forget whom we’re up against no matter what convenient-in-the-moment claims they make to the contrary.

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