Congress to Gut State Medical-Privacy
Congress has latched onto legislation
to create a national health-information system: the Health Information
Technology Promotion Act of 2005 (H.R. 4157). However, Citizens' Council on Health Care
(CCHC) says the legislation-and its plan-is not the good idea
it's portrayed to be.
CCHC has published a chart, including
analysis of the bill language and implications for the public
if H.R. 4157 passes: http://www.cchconline.org/pdf/HR-4157-CCHC-ANALYSIS-2-09-06.pdf.
"This bill gives the federal government
complete control over private medical data. It advances a national
health surveillance system-a system where the patient's data
is shared, assessed, analyzed, collected, and used without the
patient's consent or knowledge," said Twila Brase, president
She clarified, "If this bill passes,
there will be virtually no escape for the public. The so-called
federal medical-privacy rule (HIPAA) eliminated patient consent
requirements. This bill allows the federal government to gut
stronger state privacy laws. Together they will lead to the
end of personal and medical privacy for all American citizens."
"This legislation is not supported
by citizens," argued Brase. "It's not supported by patients. No doubt, the only ones
who will support it are those who want free and easy access
to patient data-without any worry about being sued."
Brase said the bill will:
strong state medical-privacy laws;
to national patient tracking and identification numbers;
an intrusive and expensive federal bureaucracy;
frank communication between patients and doctors; and
no patient behind.
- CCHC Press Release, "Congress to Gut State Medical-Privacy
Laws?" February 9, 2006.
- To read the bill, search bill text under "H.R. 4157" at
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$5.5 Billion in 2007 Budget for Building
a "Federal Health Architecture"
The President's 2007 budget allocates
$5.5 billion for developing a "federal health architecture"
(FHA). According to the budget-report section titled "Analytical
Perspectives," the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) continues to work through the Office of the National Coordinator
for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) to develop the FHA. The report states, "Throughout
the coming year, the Administration will continue to focus on
the improvement of the quality and efficiency of health care
by ensuring the appropriate steps are taken to eventually
enable Federal health information technology systems to share
health information amongst Federal agencies, with the
private sector, and with other governmental entities. Specifically,
the Administration will focus on the areas of standards implementation,
additional standards development and harmonization, alignment
of agency investments, and increased interoperability" (emphasis
ONCHIT's website gives an overview
of its goal of making health information "interoperable" so
that it can be exchanged more easily: "The Consolidated Health Informatics (CHI) initiative
will establish a portfolio of existing clinical vocabularies
and messaging standards enabling federal agencies to build interoperable
federal health data systems. This commonality will enable all federal agencies to 'speak the same language'
and share that information without the high cost of translation
or data re-entry. Federal agencies could then pursue projects
meeting their individual business needs aimed at initiatives
such as sharing electronic medical records and electronic patient
identification" (emphasis added).
- "Analytical Perspectives: Budget of
the United States Government Fiscal Year 2007" (see page 152):
- Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information
Technology (ONC), "Presidential Initiatives": (http://www.hhs.gov/healthit/chiinitiative.html).
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Comptroller General Urges Congress
to Re-examine Federal Health Spending
David M. Walker, Comptroller General
of the United States, has urged Congress to carefully re-examine
federal health spending and its impact on our nation's long-term
fiscal outlook. Following
are important excerpts from Walker's recent House Budget Committee
testimony that may be of special interest to Health Freedom Watch readers:
· "Contrary to public
perceptions, health care is the biggest driver of the long-term
fiscal challenge. While Social Security is important because
of its size, health care spending is both large and projected
to grow much more rapidly."
· "[U]nlike Social
Security, Medicare spending growth rates reflect not only a
burgeoning beneficiary population, but also the escalation of
health care costs at rates well exceeding general rates of inflation.
The growth of medical technology has contributed to increases
in the number and quality of health care services. Moreover,
the actual costs of health care consumption are not transparent.
Consumers are largely insulated by third-party payers from the
cost of health care decisions."
· "A major difficulty
is that our current system does little to encourage informed
discussions and decisions about the costs and value of various
health care services. These decisions are very important when
it comes to cutting-edge drugs and medical technologies, which
can be incredibly expensive but only marginally better than
· "The problem of
escalating health care costs is complex because addressing federal
programs such as Medicare and the federal-state Medicaid program
will need to involve change in the health care system of which
they are a part-not just within federal programs. This will
be a major societal challenge that will affect all age groups."
· "We all must make
choices that may be difficult and unpleasant today to avoid
passing an even greater burden on to future generations. Let
us not be the generation who sent the bill for its consumption
to its children and grandchildren."
· "[M]andatory [federal]
spending has grown from 27 percent before the creation of Medicare
and Medicaid to 42 percent in 1985 to 54 percent last year."
Walker also highlighted some options
for reform to help moderate spending, such as developing national
standards of health care and using the Federal Employee Health
Benefits Program (FEHBP) as means for delivering health-plan
options. But moving
Medicare beneficiaries from the traditional fee-for-service
program to the managed-care insurance programs offered under
the FEHBP could reduce seniors' freedom of choice.
Additionally, Walker noted that tax
breaks for employer-sponsored health care amounted to $118.4
billion in 2005, compared to $62.2 billion in tax breaks for
mortgage-interest deductions that same year. Thus he didn't
seem to think it was a good idea to increase tax breaks for
health savings accounts or consumer-directed health plans.
Yet, given that rising health-care
costs are contributing to our nation's fiscal challenges, it's
clear that serious cost-benefit decisions will be made in the
coming years. An important
question for Americans to consider is, in a free nation who
should be making health-plan coverage decisions: employers,
government, or individuals?
If we as a nation revere liberty and
want individuals to be free to make their own health-coverage
decisions, perhaps one of the first steps we should take is
to repeal the tax breaks given to employers for purchasing employees'
health insurance and instead offer those tax breaks to individuals. That way citizens could be
free to purchase the insurance of their choice and gain true
insurance portability when changing jobs.
Americans don't rely on employers
for automobile or homeowners insurance. Why should we rely on employers for something
as personal as health coverage?
Because outdated federal tax policy is biased in favor
of employer-sponsored health insurance. Perhaps it's time to change that policy and implement
tax breaks for health care that uphold the 21st-century
values of freedom of choice in the information age.
- David M. Walker, Comptroller General
of the United States, Testimony before the Budget Committee,
House of Representatives, "21st Century: Addressing Long-Term
Fiscal Challenges Must Include a Re-examination of Mandatory
Spending" (GAO-06-456T), February 15, 2006: (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06456t.pdf).
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Health Freedom Watch is published by the Insitute for Health Freedom. Editor: Sue Blevins; Assistant Editor: Deborah Grady. Copyright 2006 Institute for Health Freedom.