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The Increasing Cost of Privacy September 12, 2013

Posted by geoff in News.

I don’t know how I missed this last January, but this privacy rules update by the Department of Health and Human Services made my jaw drop:

Individual rights are expanded in important ways. Patients can ask for a copy of their electronic medical record in an electronic form. When individuals pay by cash they can instruct their provider not to share information about their treatment with their health plan. The final omnibus rule sets new limits on how information is used and disclosed for marketing and fundraising purposes and prohibits the sale of an individuals’ health information without their permission.

I think we all applaud the notions of access to our own records (it’s a sad testament to the times that they had to make a rule for it), and of limitations on use of our private information (again, this isn’t obvious?). But.

It seems to me to be more than a bit contrary to insist that everyone carry health insurance or face a penalty, but then to say, “If you want privacy, don’t use the health insurance we made you buy.”

Another way to think about it is as a double penalty: “We force you to pay for the compromise of your privacy, but lucky you – you can pay more to keep your information confidential.” So you have to pay twice to get back the privacy you originally had.

Also, you’d think that this administration in particular would be a little sensitive to creating a rule that is so obviously biased in favor of the well-to-do. “Privacy for the rich!! You poor folk can just let your information get bandied about the marketplace.”

I think most of us would prefer that the default value be that only we and our physicians have our records, and that keeping it that way should be free. It’s ridiculous that the administration has forced us into a program where our information is available to any government yahoo that wants to take a peek…and that they then want us to be grateful that spending more will spare us that violation of our privacy.


1. lauraw - September 12, 2013

When individuals pay by cash they can instruct their provider not to share information about their treatment with their health plan.

This is also a good way to verify a seriously bad diagnosis and not let your insurance company know about it. Until a bit after you bump your coverage up.

But I’m sure creating incentives for individuals to eventually bankrupt insurance companies was not the intent.

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