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Medical IDs: Enemy of Privacy, Liberty, and Health
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Last week, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill amendment to repeal the prohibition on the use of federal funds to create a “unique patient identifier.” Unless this prohibition, which I originally sponsored in 1998, is reinstated, the federal government will have the authority to assign every American a medical ID. This ID will be used to store and track every American’s medical history.

A unique patient identifier would allow federal bureaucrats and government-favored special interests to access health information simply by entering an individual’s unique patient ID into a database. This system would also facilitate the collection of health information without a warrant by surveillance state operatives.

The health records database could easily be linked to other similar databases, such as those containing gun purchase records or education records. If mandatory E-Verify becomes law, the health records database could even be linked to it, allowing employers to examine a potential employee’s medical history.

The possibility that the unique patient identifier system may be linked to a database containing information regarding gun ownership is especially disturbing given the bipartisan support for “red flag” laws. These laws allow the government to deny respect for someone’s Second Amendment rights without due process and based solely on an allegation that the individual is mentally unstable and likely to commit an act of gun violence. Combining red flag laws with the unique patient identifier system would leave a gun owner who ever sought psychiatric help for any reason at risk of losing his ability to legally possess a gun.

Unscrupulous government officials could use medical information to harass those whose political activities challenge the status quo. Anyone who doubts this should ask themselves what a future J. Edgar Hoover or Lois Lerner would do with access to the medical information of those involved in political movements he wishes to silence.

The unique patient identifier undermines one of the foundations of quality health care: the doctor-patient relationship. Accurate diagnosis requires that patients share intimate details about their lives — ranging from details about their diet and exercise habits to their sexual history and alcohol and drug use — with their physicians. If patients legitimately fear information shared will be compromised, they will be unwilling to be completely honest with their physicians, making it impossible for physicians to effectively treat their patients.

Proponents of the unique patient identifier claim it will improve efficiency. But, in a free society, the government should never endanger privacy or liberty for efficiency. Besides, when has any government intervention in health care ever improved efficiency or increased patients’ or health care providers’ satisfaction with the system?

The unique patient identifier system puts the desires of government bureaucrats and politically powerful special interests ahead of the needs of individual patients and health care providers. Instead of further intervening in health care and further destroying our privacy and our liberties, Congress should give patients control over their health care by giving them control over health care dollars through expanding access to Health Savings Accounts and health care tax credits. In a free market, patients and doctors can and will work tighter to ensure patients’ records are maintained in a manner that provides maximum efficiency without endangering privacy or liberty.

(Republished from The Ron Paul Institute by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Government Surveillance, Health care 
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  1. Unfortunately medicine has become another corporate big business, with similar efficiencies for the average person as Wall Street’s. That is, more for them, less for everyone else, as by Adam Smith’s Vile Maxim.

  2. This is pointless. As if all your medical information isn’t tied directly to your Social Security number, anyway. A number of years ago, a hospital refused to treat my then juvenile son unless we supplied his social security number. All your medical records are linked to it.

    • Replies: @Jim bob Lassiter
  3. @Cloudbuster

    Unless you tell the hospital or the clinic “Lo siento, pero no tengo un social.”

    • Agree: Cloudbuster
  4. Giuseppe says:

    This process of consolidating all personal information in one place is advancing on other fronts and is quite far along. This is the entire real purpose of the enhanced driver’s licenses, a virtual national identity card. This is also the reason why Obamacare mandated that health records be digitized. Eventually it will all be there in the chip implanted in your wrist granting access to everything there is to know about you, biometric data, medical records, criminal history, your grades in elementary school, your purchases, your parking tickets, your comments on articles.

  5. Hur Dur says:

    Whose fault is it that, until now, doctors made it extremely difficult for patients and insurances to take their business elsewhere? If American doctors would have had patient’s freedom at heart, getting the records to the patients, before they walk out the office door, in a format that could be useful if they decide to switch providers, would have been the default. Instead, it is a chore that takes money and time. Patient’s records are being held hostage by the “carers”, much like their performance data, and even their fees, because American physicians don’t like open competition. Long story short, they can’t compete.

    It’s even more impressive when you consider how filthy rich are the American physicians. Their salaries cost as much as the salaries of everyone else combined (nurses + janitors + administrators + management). Obviously, the nurses and the janitors couldn’t care less if you went to a different hospital, and don’t have the means to support portable, private EHR. Doctors do have the means, but their biggest financial concerns are the acquisition of more expensive cars and younger wives.

    Yes, we can talk about surveillance as long as you want, even though Google and Facebook scripts, loaded by on the side, by default, make sure I have no privacy while typing. This is not about privacy. If anything, it will make the patient more free, allowing them to go to a different doctor more easily. That is so sad!

    • Disagree: Achmed E. Newman, Cloudbuster
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