Steps to Protect, Correct, and Limit What Goes In Your Obamacare File
Are your electronic medical records making you vulnerable to identity thieves and financial criminals? Could your medical data on file with doctors, hospitals, insurers, pharmacists and the government even be putting your health at risk?
For many people, the answer to both questions is, yes. Highly sensitive information about your personal medical history is being collected electronically – supposedly for your own good.
Most people don’t realize how “open” their medical records now are. Medical privacy was effectively abolished in 2003 by Health and Human Services Department amendments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The new regulations stripped Americans of the right to control who can see and use their medical records. According to the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, potentially hundreds of thousands of businesses “can now see and use our medical records without our knowledge, permission, and even against our objections.”
Starting this year, the federal government mandates that all healthcare providers keep detailed electronic records on all patients. Most are already doing so, but the new national standards will expand the scope of medical data gathering and make it easier for records to be shared among all the various parties involved in dispensing, financing, regulating, and rationing medical treatment. The government has already spent more than $15 billion building out the universal patient records database.
Obamacare Pits Your Doc Against Your Glocks
Patient/doctor confidentiality is being eroded, especially with the implementation of Obamacare. Under the (Un)affordable Care Act, physicians are being encouraged to pry into patients’ personal lives and even probe children about such matters as whether their parents keep guns in the house.
President Obama’s new Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, is the least experienced and most politically radical “top doc” in the nation’s history. Murthy previously headed up the group Doctors for America, which advocates gun control and encourages doctors to treat gun ownership as a public health problem. As Gateway Pundit reported, Murthy “wants doctors to ask patients, including children, if there are any firearms in their home. This would be included on their file that would be shared with several government agencies under Obamacare.”
You can’t assume that what you tell your doctor won’t be used against you by an insurance company, an employer, or the government. Therefore, be very careful about what you tell your doctor. You should give him all the information he needs to treat you, but no more. If he asks about activities or lifestyle choices that you’d rather keep private, then you are within your rights to decline to answer.
Your Medical History, Their Profits
More electronic data on you means more opportunities for corporations and illicit data miners to profit from it. Selling patients’ records to pharmaceutical companies and other businesses can be hugely profitable. As a result of electronic records, a variety of people with hidden agendas may know if you’ve ever suffered from depression, had a sexually transmitted disease, taken Viagra, had cancer, or any of a myriad of details from your files.
Of course, doctors’ offices and insurance companies will present you with their privacy policies in which they promise to safeguard your records. Most private investigators know there’s one quick end run that can gain much of the information hidden in ostensibly private medical files. Instead of asking for the records, the snoop asks to see the invoices. Hospital employees often do a brisk business giving access to medical files for an under-the-table charge and/or selling the data to private companies without the consent of patients or hospitals.
Take Charge of Your Medical Records
(To the Extent that the Law Allows)
You can try to limit the data collected by providers by limiting what you tell them, but unfortunately, there’s no longer any way to avoid having your records put in electronic databases. Federal law will soon require it. You can at least monitor your medical files to some extent to try to prevent inaccurate or potentially dangerous information from following you around.
Especially in an emergency room situation, doctors and surgeons may automatically go by what’s on file in your medical history. Inaccurate records of test results, infections, implants, medications prescribed, allergies, etc. could lead to misdiagnosis, unnecessary treatments, or procedures (or lack thereof) that put your life at risk.
According to Scientific American (November 2013), “Electronic medical records have their own flaws. In ozens of known cases, caregivers have entered information into the wrong chart or listed important details – such as drug doses – incorrectly. Data sometimes disappear. In one case, a patient’s allergy to penicillin was improperly entered into an electronic record. The patient later received ampicillin and nearly died of a shock.”
Health insurance companies have compiled data on millions of insured patients for access by insurers and for patient review. If you have health or life insurance, chances are good that the so-called Medical Information Bureau (MIB) has one or more files on your medical history.
It’s a good idea to check on this information from time to time to make sure nothing erroneous (or nefarious) winds up in your file. You can request your MIB file over the phone or online (866-692- 690; www.mib.com). You are entitled to view a free copy of your MIB file annually.
Also check the records kept at your physician’s office and at any hospital where you have received treatment. The sooner you can spot a problem, the more likely it can be fixed before something goes wrong.