This website provides readers an historical perspective on the evolution of various healthcare laws and regulations affecting healthcare freedom and privacy.
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Health Freedom Watch
May 2007

Contents:

Minnesota Health-Insurance Exchange Legislation Creates “Single-Seller” Bureaucracy

The following press release explains the serious consequences of the proposed health-insurance exchange in Minnesota.  Readers are encouraged to consider carefully how such an exchange, or connector, for purchasing insurance in their states would affect their health-care costs, choices, and privacy.

At a press conference held [April 19], Citizens’ Council on Health Care (CCHC) asked Governor Tim Pawlenty to withdraw the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange proposal moving forward in the Health and Human Services bill, SF 2171 (House version).

“If the Exchange becomes law, Minnesotans will no longer be allowed to purchase health insurance privately. In the future, the Exchange could be empowered to determine insurance benefits, limit choice of insurers, set prices, and monitor every aspect of the insurance industry, included the insured,” warned Twila Brase, president of CCHC.

Joining Ms. Brase were concerned citizens, insurance agents, and representatives from the business community.  Mr. Mel Brandl, a concerned citizen, expressed his opposition, “I do not want the government telling me how to purchase my health insurance. It’s none of their business!”  Mr. Tom Aslesen, an insurance broker, said, “At some point the Exchange could assume complete power over health-insurance options and operations. There could be only a few people making health-insurance decisions for everyone in the State of Minnesota.”

Ms. Brase detailed five additional concerns:

  1. Violation of Citizen Rights:  Citizens will no longer be allowed to purchase health insurance privately. Health insurance will be accessible only through an employer or the Exchange.

  2. Violation of Individual Privacy:  The Exchange will know the name, health plan, premium payment, insured status, and perhaps, medical conditions of individuals buying health insurance.

  3. Higher Health-Care Costs:  The Exchange, acting as a fourth-party payer, is empowered to charge for the cost of administration by assessing fees on health plan premiums.

  4. Loss of Personal Service:  Bureaucracies are not known for their customer service.

  5. Lack of State Liability: The State of Minnesota will use taxpayer dollars to start the Exchange, help run the Exchange, and leave the public with no choice but to send their money to the Exchange for the purchase of health insurance, yet assume no liability for actions taken by the Exchange.

“We are asking the Governor to withdraw the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange proposal,” said Ms. Brase.

“The Exchange is a large ‘single-seller’ bureaucracy that threatens to assume powers over all aspects of health insurance. It will increase health-care costs, violate individual rights, and leave the public without the personalized services and options we have today,” she stated.

Source: “CCHC Asks Governor Pawlenty to Withdraw the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange Legislation,” Citizens’ Council on Health Care, April 19, 2007: http://www.cchconline.org/pr/pr041907.php

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Government Begins to Enforce Conventional Medicine Mandates on Americans
© By Peter Barry Chowka

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
Minority Report: H. L. Mencken’s Notebooks (1956) p. 247

The concept of “universal health care,” reportedly so popular with the American electorate these days, may at first glance sound appealing. We are told that under a government-run or “single payer” system, one can just sit back, theoretically at least, and stop worrying as cradle to grave health care will be made available to everyone on an equal basis—the best that American medicine has to offer, infinitely more affordable, maybe even free, to masses of people who are currently losing sleep over the possibility of going bankrupt under the problematic status quo health-care delivery system (a mix of the free market and big government programs like Medicare and Medicaid) or who have no health insurance at all.

As usual, however, there are high prices to be paid for such a Faustian bargain. The uncontrolled financial costs, inflation, decline in quality, rationing, and other downsides, well documented in countries with long experience in government-run health care, are rarely if ever made apparent, or admitted to, at the onset of a new program. Among the indirect, less well-recognized costs are the emerging plans to set up huge new government databases (tapping into and mining private commercial databases) and large new bureaucracies to “track down” and enforce compliance on residents who fail to buy approved medical coverage.

In 1965, the mandatory federal program Medicare began to move a significant part of the American population, aged 65 and older, into the conventional allopathic medical treatment system. It represented a gradual, incremental road to socialized medicine. In 2007, plans are moving forward in a number of states to force all residents, not just the elderly—under the threat of law—to participate in the conventional medical monopoly. (Meanwhile, all Democrat candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination have pledged to support federal government-run universal health care.)

Universal health care on the state level is already in effect in Massachusetts. On July 1, 2007, as the result of a law passed in 2006, all Massachusetts residents will need to prove that they have state-approved conventional medical insurance.

However, according to USA Today, the cost of such coverage is expensive and it increases as one ages. In fact, one out of five uninsured Massachusetts residents cannot afford it—the very people the new universal system was supposed to cover. "…[T]he board overseeing the first-in-the-nation effort to require everyone to carry insurance exempted up to 20% of the state's estimated 328,000 uninsured adults from penalties if they do not purchase coverage," reports USA Today.  According to the Commonwealth Connector Web site, a health plan that meets the state's mandates would cost between $6,866 to $19,791 annually for a family of four consisting of two adults age 40 and two dependent children.

Moreover, it's emblematic of a government-controlled health-care scheme to limit consumer choices. And so it is in Massachusetts. According to a 2002 national survey, 36 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 years and over use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which is defined as a group of diverse medical and health-care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. When prayer specifically for health purposes is included in the definition of CAM, the number rises to 62 percent. Yet none of the plans under Commonwealth Care lists coverage for any CAM health-care options, including chiropractic. (Commonwealth Care is the state program that subsidizes insurance for individuals or families whose income is less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level.) And plans available through the Connector offer limited access to CAM services. Forcing citizens to purchase and choose from a restricted choice of health-insurance plans that don't cover their choice of services and providers is the antithesis to freedom. It is extortion.

Tracking Down and Coercing the “Bad Actors”

In California, the nation’s largest state, both Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democrat-controlled legislature have proposed universal coverage and draconian schemes for enforcing the government mandates.

“The Schwarzenegger administration considers putting teeth in its plan to require coverage for all,” reported the Los Angeles Times (April 11, 2007). “People who refuse to obtain health insurance could be tracked down by the state or a private contractor, enrolled in a plan and fined until they pay their premiums…” (Emphasis added.) Schwarzenegger has also proposed attaching the wages of people who don’t buy health insurance and increasing the amount that the uninsured owe in state income taxes.  The proposal to locate people without insurance would use state or private databases and target those who lacked coverage for 60 days or more,” notes the Times.

Peter Harbage, a senior program associate with the New America Foundation, commented, “…[Y]ou’re going to have some people who are bad actors, and that’s where you need some sort of tracking system.” (According to the Times, “Schwarzenegger has cited the foundation’s research in helping to frame his plan.”)

In Massachusetts, according to the state government, “Beginning July 1, 2007, all Massachusetts residents 18 years of age and over are required to carry the minimum level of health insurance....Enforcement will be accomplished through an individual’s state tax return. Financial penalties will be imposed on uninsured individuals up to 50 percent of the cost of a health insurance plan”—a plan, that is, that will be chosen from a limited range of options approved by state bureaucrats.

According to the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons’ May 2006 newsletter, “All [Massachusetts] residents would have to indicate on their state income tax returns, under oath, whether they had creditable coverage for the entire 12 months. If they say they didn’t, or if the commissioner determines that they actually didn’t, any tax refund would be withheld, and if that is insufficient, all available enforcement procedures will be used to collect.”

Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council on Healthcare (CCHC), commented on April 10, 2006, “If [Massachusetts] Governor Romney signs this bill into law [which he did on April 12, 2006], a huge health-care bureaucracy will descend on the people of Massachusetts… [A]n intrusive and prescriptive bureaucracy will be authorized to ration health care and make decisions about who gets what health care when. Health-care decisions will be taken out of the hands of patients and doctors as the agendas of special interests, not the needs of patients, take precedence. The legislation is extremely intrusive. State agencies will be monitoring insurance status, checking income status, and tracking the medical care of the Massachusetts people.” The CCHC published “Massachusetts ‘Universal Coverage’ Legislation Mimics Government Bureaucracy and Bureaucratic Controls of ‘HillaryCare,’” available as a six-page PDF document (www.cchconline.org/pdfs/Romney_Healthcare_Chart.pdf).

In the April 2006 issue of Health Freedom Watch, founder and president of the Institute for Health Freedom Sue A. Blevins wrote, “It’s crystal clear (upon reading the actual [Massachusetts] bill text) that the plan invades everyone’s privacy by requiring insurers and health-care providers to submit patient data to a centralized clearinghouse (a new council). And it’s clear that forcing Americans to buy a product from a limited number of government-approved insurers limits their freedom of choice.   There is a huge difference between freedom and choice: freedom means one is free to choose from an array of options not artificially limited by the government, while choice may include only an artificially limited number of options.”

Not to be outdone by neighboring Massachusetts, Democrat politicians in Connecticut recently proposed their own state government health-care plans. One of them, SB 1371, the Connecticut Saves Health Care Program, would have established a single-payer plan. The bill was passed by the legislature’s insurance committee by a vote of 12-7 in March. On April 10, however, the Hartford Courant reported that “the legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the costs at $11.8 billion to $17.7 billion, depending on variables.” The Courant added, “The cost is slightly more than the entire state budget proposed by the governor.” 

EMRs and EBM Pave the New Health-Care Superhighway

An essential component of universal health care is information technology (IT). Elevating IT to a pivotal role, for example, by requiring everyone to have electronic medical records (EMRs), including an electronic “smart card,” a personal national health-care ID number, and so on, has become an article of faith on the part of health-care reform-oriented politicians of all stripes. Closely allied is the preference for IT-driven “evidence-based medicine” (EBM) as a way to (supposedly) objectively judge and codify into clinical practice or law what reportedly works clinically and what doesn’t.

The mad rush to implement everything that is IT-based or IT-related into American health care, however, has blinded the players to the valuable experiences and insights of critics of both EMRs and EBM. The UK is significantly ahead of the U.S. in terms of commitment to and funding of EMRs. Under the British government-run National Health Service (NHS), which has provided socialized medicine to the Britons since 1948, the transition to EMRs began about a decade ago.  But critics charge that EMRs have failed to make a positive impact on the drastically worsening British health-care system. EBM also has its knowledgeable critics, but they, too, have been brushed aside by conventional medical policymakers, who instead consider “evidence,” based on criteria that they define and measure, as the highest sacrament of the secular church of scientism at which they all collectively worship.

In 1995, privacy expert Simon Davies published the essay “Superhighway to Dystopia.” In my view, especially considering its brevity, it’s the single best report on the brave new world that is upon us. As a student of medical politics, innovative non-allopathic treatments, and health-care reform, it seems to me that Davies’s concerns are most applicable—chillingly so—to what we see happening today, right now, in the U.S. in the form of the calls by politicians, special interest groups, the media, and other self-interested parties for universal health care, single payer, etc.—potentially the greatest transformation of American medicine since the time of the Founding Fathers.

Davies predicted what is happening now: a technological imperative driving increasingly obnoxious public policies that favor maximum control and loss of personal freedom, all of it made possible by sophisticated mass monitoring and surveillance, the merging of private and government databases (finally achieving the “perfect and total identification of human subjects”), and citizen complacency as “technology has spawned an age of mass pacification.”

As Davies writes, “The Big Brother society imagined by the world in [the past] depended on coercion and fear. The society we are developing now is more like Huxley than Orwell. It is Brave New World. Instead of the repressive tyrants and their omnipresent, brutal and intrusive technology, the public is being brought to heel by a lethal expectation of compliance….”

Peter Barry Chowka is an investigative journalist and medical-political analyst who specializes in reporting on alternative and innovative therapies and the politics of health care. Between 1992 and 1994, he was an advisor to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine.  His website is: http://chowka.com.

© By Peter Barry Chowka.  Reprinted with permission.

Sources:

  • “Poll: The Politics of Health Care,” CBS News, March 1, 2007.
  • “Mass. Health Plan Finds Cost Is Too High for 20% of People,” USA Today, April 13, 2007.
  • “California Proposal: Get Health Insurance or Pay Fine,” Los Angeles Times, April 11, 2007.
  • Health Care Reform Act of 2006: http://www.mass.gov/agr/news/health_care_reform_act.htm
  • “Magical Thinking,” Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, May 2006: http://www.aapsonline.org/newsletters/may06.php
  • “Will Governor Romney Sign a Massachusetts Version of "HillaryCare" into Law?” Citizens’ Council on Health Care, April 10, 2006: http://www.cchconline.org/pr/pr041006.php
  • “How Massachusetts’s Health Plan Affects Privacy and Liberty,” Institute for Health Freedom: April 2006.
  • “Health Plan Sticker Shock: Universal Care Might Cost State Almost $18 Billion; Proposal Seen as Dead,” Hartford Courant, April 10, 2007.
  • “Superhighway to Dystopia,” by Simon Davies, September 1995.
  • "More Than One-Third of U.S. Adults Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine," Institute for Health Freedom, October 5, 2004: www.forhealthfreedom.org/Publications/Choice/AltMedUse.html
  • Massachusetts Commonwealth Connector.
  • Massachusetts Commonwealth Care.

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Forgo Government Care and Seek Private Treatment for Sensitive Issues, Says Concerned Foreign Service Officers

As Americans debate whether government-sponsored, employer-sponsored or private health care is better, the following press release is noteworthy as it shows clearly that government-controlled and employer-controlled health care leads to privacy invasions.  

A recent article in USA Today, comments by the State Department's spokesperson, and recent efforts to poll Foreign Service Officers on mental-health issues related to overseas postings prompt Concerned Foreign Service Officers (CFSO) to issue the following warning to members of the Foreign Service:

PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and other stress- or trauma-related mental illnesses are serious problems requiring medical care, and CFSOs urges anyone who may be suffering from such disorders to seek immediate treatment. We strongly urge, however, that FSOs seek such treatment from a private mental health-care provider, and not through the Office of Medical Services of the U.S. Department of State (M/MED).

Concerns about the effect of mental health-care treatment on security clearances, as reported in USA Today by former DG Pearson, are real. CFSO has seen numerous cases where even allegations of mental health issues, ranging from PTSD to depression to marital discord to stress-related substance abuse have been referred by M/MED to Diplomatic Security (DS), usually resulting in recommendations to revoke a clearance. The issue is aggravated by the fact that M/MED keeps medical records related to such cases, including initial diagnoses, outside of normal medical files, in administrative files shared with, and sometimes even stored by, DS [State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security].

The State Department has asserted that such files are not subject to the HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability] Act. Consequently, medical information will be shared with DS, with Human Resources employees, and even with security services of other agencies which may clear an employee, but not with the employee him/herself. It may take an employee three or four years to be able to access such information through the Privacy Act, and access may be denied completely. It is M/MED's stated policy not to remove or amend inaccurate information in its files, meaning that if a medical interview is inaccurately portrayed by the recording psychiatrist, it will stand as fact.

We have seen cases where DS has based clearance revocations on 12-year-old medical information regarding conditions of which the employee has demonstrably been cured. We have also seen cases where files were destroyed, leaving employees with revoked clearances and no evidence to dispute.

The Office of Medical Services has one patient and one patient only: The U.S. Department of State. As stated by a former Director of Mental Health Services, their "job is to prevent people like you from ever serving overseas again."

M/MED continues to maintain improper files, to withhold information from patients, and to regard themselves as "cops in doc's clothing." For these reasons, we urge any employee seeking mental-health treatment to obtain such treatment privately. The employee may still be required to share information with M/MED and DS, but at least the employee will be able to compel HIPAA Act compliance and have a legal record, beyond the State Department's ability to suppress, of what actually transpired [Note: The HIPAA federal medical-privacy rule does provide citizens the right to obtain a copy of their medical records].

Source: “Concerned Foreign Service Officers Warning on Mental Health Treatment,” Concerned Foreign Service Officers, May 3: 2007.

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Health Freedom Watch is published by the Insitute for Health Freedom. Editor: Sue Blevins; Assistant Editor: Deborah Grady. Copyright 2007 Institute for Health Freedom.