Patient Privacy Goes Out the Window and Into the ObamaCare Data Hub

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- "ObamaCare" as it will be forever known in the annals of failed, big-government policies -- wants to know what you've been up to in your sex life. It's ironic that ObamaCare, passed in the dead of night with only Democrat votes, should make such an egregious attempt to violate the privacy rights of medical patients. After all, wasn't it the Democratic Party that held a national convention in 2012 celebrating abortion and claiming a woman's "choice" should be a private matter between her and her doctor?


In fact, the 2012 Democratic National Platform stated:


"Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way" [Emphasis mine].


For a party so certain that a right to privacy exists in the Constitution specifically for abortion, it is odd to learn that the government, through ObamaCare, seeks the "intensely personal" information patients share with doctors about their sexual practices. Of course, ObamaCare is going to use taxpayer funds to pay for abortions, so maybe they won't ask abortion-related questions. But, apparently, all other sex-related topics will be fair game.


What kind of questions will you face when you go to the doctor -- any type of doctor -- under ObamaCare's magical world of "affordable" health care coverage? (By the way, these intrusive questions will be found in your doctor's office, even if you are not covered through an ObamaCare exchange plan, because they are part of the new, mandated "free" preventive services.)


Betsey McCaughey, former-Lieutenant Governor of New York and one of the foremost experts on ObamaCare, enlightened her readers about what to expect when you visit the doctor.


Whether you're at the dermatologist or the cardiologist, you'll likely be asked: "Are you sexually active? If so, do you have one partner, multiple partners or same-sex partners?"

Doctors are being turned into government agents, where they're pressured financially to ask questions they consider inappropriate and unnecessary and violate their Hippocratic Oath to keep patients' records confidential.

Going to the doctor can be embarrassing. But for your own good, you confide in your doctor, as you wouldn't anyone else. What is happening here is different.

"This is nasty business," says Dr. Adam Budzikowski, a New York cardiologist, who called the sex question "insensitive, stupid and very intrusive." He could not think of an occasion when a cardiologist would need such information.

Doctors and hospitals who don't comply with the federal government's electronic health records requirements forego incentive payments now and face financial penalties from Medicare and Medicaid starting in 2015. The Department of Health and Human Services has already paid out over $12.7 billion in incentives to doctors and hospitals.

Dr. Richard Amerling, a nephrologist and associate professor of medicine at Albert Einstein Medical College, explains that your medical record should be "a story created by you and your doctor solely for your treatment and benefit." But the Obama Administration's electronic record requirements are turning it "into an interrogation, and the data will not be confidential."


Of course electronic health records are involved in this latest information grab. For those who don't know, as part of President Obama's stimulus bill, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he included the Health Information Technology and Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which attempts to get every doctor and hospital to use electronic health records instead of paper records through the use of incentives (read government funding) and penalties for non-compliance.


Senators Alexander, Burr, Coburn, Enzi, Roberts, and Thune produced a report about the difficulties involved in implementing the HITECH Act. The top five problems they found are: lack of a clear path toward interoperability, increased costs, lack of oversight, putting patient privacy at risk, and program sustainability.


As to patient privacy, the report stated in part:


Among other problems, regulations related to payments made to providers do not require providers to demonstrate that the technology is secure; consequently, patients' sensitive, personal medical information may be at risk. In fact, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the security policies and procedures at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology -- two federal entities which oversee the administration of the health IT program -- are lax and may jeopardize sensitive patient data. Further, problems with data entry, computer programing errors, and other unforeseen complications can affect the security of patient data and have the potential to jeopardize patient care.


What if a doctor takes handwritten notes during your appointment and then later asks a staff member or perhaps a third-party transcriber to input his notes into the electronic health record?  How about the countless people in hospitals with access to the computer system, not to mention hackers? The opportunity for identity theft and breach of confidentiality are much greater with computer records than with paper records.


Government agencies will snoop, too. Did you hear about the IRS seizing 60 million health records of 10 million patients in California a couple of years ago? Now there's an agency you want reading your health questionnaire answers. (Don't worry about the National Security Agency (NSA), though; I'm sure they already have them. ...)


Even before you establish an electronic health record with a doctor, ObamaCare makes you vulnerable to identity theft. The health care exchanges are slated to open on October 1, 2013, but the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General found that the final test of the information technology security that is supposed to be in place to protect people's identity information (including previous medical records) they supply to ObamaCare navigators (who won't be going through background checks or fingerprinting, just an FYI) when they sign up for government-approved health care will not be done until the day before, September 30.


Check out The Independent Journal Review's chart to see where your information goes in the "ObamaCare Data Hub."  What could go wrong? Just ask the 2,400 insurance agents in Minnesota who had their personal information leaked when an employee at the Minnesota ObamaCare exchange sent an unsecured computer file to the wrong person.


So the next time you go to the podiatrist for a bunion, remember that when he asks about your sex life or perhaps your recreational drug use, it's not his fault. He's just collecting this information he doesn't need, and probably doesn't care to know, on behalf of the new intrusive government program known as ObamaCare. If you are embarrassed by these questions, you decide to keep information from your doctor for fear of it being publicly exposed someday, thereby risking your health, or your electronic health record is hacked, you can thank the Democrats and President Obama for the experience. And remember, Congress exempted themselves from some ObamaCare provisions.


So go ahead and trust the president's promise that a patient's privacy would be protected with electronic health records that contain your answers to intrusive government-mandated questions, if you are feeling lucky. Or you can follow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advice; if you want to keep your health records private, pay cash.

Brenda Zurita is the Research Fellow for Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute.

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