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Health Care Reform and the End of Privacy

According to Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation, any semblance of privacy will be thrown under the bus if health care reform is passed that approaches the bills currently before Congress. In the August 20, 2009 “TechBytes,” he writes:

“Privacy advocates who enjoy focusing on issues like browser cookies, behavioral advertising, database privacy and deep packet inspection can just throw in the towel if anything approaching HR 3200, the current draft of the health care bill in the House of Representatives, becomes law.

“Because HR 3200 contains the most egregious violations of Americans’ privacy imaginable. Indeed, one way to characterize HR 3200 is as “The End of Privacy.”

“The bill creates a “Health Choices Commissioner” (henceforth sarcastically referred to as the Health Choices Commissar), and, of course, the Commissar needs to be able to pry into your finances. HR 3200 gives the Commissar the right to look at your tax return, so as to quickly determine your eligibility for services and for federal health care benefits.

“Yes, it’s right there, on pages 195-196 (out of 1,107 pages), in Section 431, entitled DISCLOSURES TO CARRY OUT HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE SUBSIDIES. The Health Choices Commissar will be able to look at your tax return in order to examine your taxpayer identity information, filing status, your AGI (as defined in section 59B(e)(5)), the number of your dependents, and “such other information as is prescribed by the Secretary by regulation as might indicate whether the taxpayer is eligible.”

“This provision amends the Internal Revenue code, opens up taxpayer information to federal officials, requires your employer to also provide your financial information, and gives the Commissar wide discretion to ask for “other information” deemed necessary.

“And Section 1801 gives the Health Choices Commissar the right to look into your Social Security records.

“A companion bill in the Senate, as currently drafted (PDF link), could give the Commissar the right to look into your bank account in order to determine your ability to pay (Section 222 (a)(2)(D), page 343)

“Such easy access by federal health care officials to your financial records may indeed “streamline” the approval process and lead to “efficiency gains.” But you can kiss your financial privacy good-bye.

“Of course, the privacy of medical history and health records is also in danger. How many thousands of federal employees will have access to your records? The privacy of your health records will be only as good as the most nosy, most dishonest and most malcontented federal employee. Worried? So are we.

“But don’t worry, Senator Arlen Specter promised the other day at a town hall meeting that “we’ll do everything we can to stop people from breaking into the files.”

“Oh, and don’t count on courts and judges to protect your privacy from the Health Choices Commissar  -- virtually every section of the bill contains a “Limitations on Review” clause that states “There shall be no administrative or judicial review” of the provisions in that section.

“So say good-bye to privacy from the federal government. It was fun while it lasted for 233 years.

It’s incredible to learn how much of our freedom and liberty will be extinguished if health care reform is passed in anything close to its current form. No wonder 57% of likely voters in a recent Rasmussen poll said they “would like to replace (the) entire Congress” while “just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators.”

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