Biometric & Unique Health Identifiers
Did you know that the federal government is required by law to assign each and every citizen a “Unique Health Identifier” (UHI) for tagging and tracking his or her personal health information from cradle to grave?
The requirement for assigning everyone a UHI (a patient ID number) was mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notes that the requirement was mandated by law as part of its goal of achieving uniform, national health-data standards that will support the electronic exchange of medical records.
In a 2001 Cato Institute paper titled "Watching You: Systematic Federal Surveillance of Ordinary Americans," Professor Charlotte Twight of Boise State University explains that "on July 2, 1998, HHS released its lengthy white paper entitled ‘Unique Health Identifier for Individuals.’ In this chilling document HHS calmly discussed exactly what Orwellian form the ‘unique health identifier’ would take and what degree of encroachment on individual privacy would be compelled." The HHS white paper described biometric identifiers as “based on unique physical attributes, including fingerprints, retinal pattern analysis, iris scan, voice pattern identification, and DNA analysis.”
During the past few years, Congress has placed a temporary moratorium on federal spending for UHIs. But Congress needs to repeal the section of HIPAA that mandates UHIs in order to prevent their creation. And Congressman Ron Paul introduced legislation in 2009 that would do just that. H.R. 2630—titled "Protect Patients and Physicians Privacy Act"—repeals the section of HIPAA that mandates UHIs for all Americans.
Those who care about their medical privacy should voice their own opinions to their elected leaders regarding UHIs—including the use of biometric identifiers.
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(Summary updated November 2009)