Congress Temporarily Halts Funding of
Unique Health Identifier:
Will President Clinton Sign It into Law?
August 11, 2000
In June, the House of Representatives and the Senate
each voted to temporarily stop funding of the Clinton
administration's plan to assign a unique health identifier
to each American for the purpose of tracking medical
The House on June 13 adopted Rep. Ron Paul's (R- TX)
amendment to the $106.2 billion fiscal 2001 appropriations
bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human
Services (HHS), and Education. Paul's amendment would
temporarily halt federal funding for unique health identifiers.
On June 14, the appropriations bill (H.R. 4577) passed
the House by a slim margin, 217 to 214. A few weeks
later the Senate also approved (by 52 to 43 votes) an
appropriations bill that included the moratorium.
What Happens Next?
The Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill has already
been through conference, the process whereby a committee
irons out the differences between the versions. As of
August 3, the conference committee had not yet filed its
final report showing compromises between the House and
Senate versions. A committee report is expected to be
filed in September. Then the full House and Senate must
approve the conference report before the revised bill
goes to the President for his signature.
Will President Clinton Approve the Moratorium?
President Clinton has been a strong advocate of the unique
health identifier. In fact, the proposal for assigning
a number to every American originated with his Health
Care Task Force in 1993.
Remember the "President's Health Security Plan" that
failed to receive a single vote in Congress? It included
a provision to create a health card and a unique health
identifier for every American. The plan stated, "like
ATM cards, the health security card allows access to
information about health coverage through an integrated
Although that plan failed, another plan to create
a medical identification system was signed into law
as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Regulations were supposed to have
been drafted by now. However, during the past two years
Congress has placed temporary moratoriums on funding
Moreover, the Clinton administration has begun to
acknowledge the enormous resistance to identifiers and
wants to make sure "privacy regulations" are in place
before the identifiers are created. However, proposed
federal privacy regulations don't truly protect patients'
privacy. Rather, they would give many people new, unfettered
access to Americans' medical records--without their
The Institute for Health Freedom and others have reviewed
many of the public comments about the proposed regulations,
and there is no doubt that the public wants more, not
less, privacy protection. They also are concerned about
the unique health identifier. Thus it is likely that
President Clinton will approve another moratorium this
But once this moratorium expires, Americans sooner
or later will likely be assigned a tracking number to
monitor their medical records electronically. That's
a fact, not a prediction: the HIPAA law of 1996 remains
on the books and would have to be repealed to ensure
that we are not subject to this intrusive system.
This article was originally published in the July/August
2000 issue of Health