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CCHF Health Freedom eNews

May 11, 2012

Letter from CCHF's President

Obama has launched the "Big Data" Initiative. Six federal agencies are involved with a total of  $200 million committed to dig into, digest, and dissect "huge volumes of digital data." The Administration wants to " extract knowledge and insights from large and complex collections of digital data...to solve the Nation's most pressing challenges."

Medical privacy is at risk. Private medical records are increasingly part of these vast collections of digitized data; the health care issue is considered one of the Nation's biggest problems; and  HIPAA does not protect patient privacy. It is the reason Obama's "Big Data" initiative to analyze private data can proceed. 

According to one expert quoted in Healthcare IT News, there are boatloads of data, but "the issue is  how do we tap into that to make sense of what's going on." He notes that government "is imposing a tremendous amount of information for folks to report" and believes they will soon "crack the code" of the Big Data problem to reduce health care costs and keep patients healthy.

They want in. "Big Data" enthusiasts think your private medical records are public records. A Kauffman Foundation  press release boldly says, "Opening Up Big Data is the Big Solution to Curing Health Care Ills." John Wilbanks, an author of the new Kauffman  report, "Valuing Health Care: Improving Productivity and Quality," says, "Using proper safeguards, we need to open the information that is locked in medical offices, hospitals and the files of pharmaceutical and insurance companies."

Your genes could even be analyzed. Mr. Wilbanks suggests, "combining larger datasets on drug responses with  genomic data on patients" as a way to determine which people get what therapy. This raises certain questions. For instance, could your data be used to "scientifically" ration your care? How would you know? What could you do?

"Big Data" is a vast government research project. Government officials are moving forward without your consent, and very likely in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Your private data could be used for purposes to which you may object, according to agendas that may violate your autonomy and cause you real harm. 

It's time to act. Privacy is not as much about privacy as it is about control. He who holds the data makes the rules. State legislators should move quickly to enact real medical privacy laws, as permitted under HIPAA, that require informed written consent for online placement and outside access to private medical records. Significant penalties for violations should be included.

Now on to the news . . .




News to Know:

Endangering Patients; Imposing Control

The practice of medicine is being standardized and centralized by government imposition of electronic medical records (EMRs) through  "meaningful use" requirements in the 2009 "stimulus" bill. Medicare will impose pay cuts on doctors and hospitals that do not buy and meaningfully use interoperable (online/linkable) EMRs by 2015. Compelling articles written by two physicians, surgeon  Dr. David Cossman in Florida and anesthesiologist  Dr. Karen Sibert in California, bring the dangers of EMRs into sharp focus. A few quotes:

  • Unreadable - EMRs "don't tell us stories that make cognitive sense. They offer information in endless lists." 
  • Not Safe - "If it takes you about half an hour to figure out if you did or did not cancel the Lasix...how safe can the system be?" 
  • Expensive - "Implementation will cost nearly $300,000 per bed, or about 50% more than the cost to build the hospital from scratch..." 
  • Time-Consuming - "Servicing the voracious requirements of the EMR is a full-time job and we've all been conscripted as data entry drones..." 
  • Data-Centered - "Dehumanization of medicine has actually become a goal, and EMR the perfect excuse to attain that goal." 
  • Controlling - "[W]ithin 10 years...what was our tool will become our master."

Employers May Say "No Way"

A Congressional  report has bad news about employer health insurance under Obamacare: By dropping coverage and paying the $2,000 per-employee penalty,  71 of the nation's largest employers could save more than $28 billion in 2014 alone, and $422.4 billion over a decade. The average savings per employee would be $4,821 in 2014. Recall how  Daily Show's Jon Stewart challenged Secretary Sebelius Jan 23 about employers dropping coverage...and U.S. becoming "Sweden"?   Watch here.

Doctors Yearning to be Free

Dr. Steven Butdorf in Oregon asks patients to pay  monthly retainer fees. He takes no insurance. Four states (OR, UT, WA, WV) have specific physician retainer laws. In 2009, there were 756 retainer doctors, up from 146 in 2005. A 2010 survey revealed 3% of doctors with some form of retainer practice, up from 1.2% in 2009. As insurers  cut  payments, Congress threatens a   30.9% pay cut, EMRs are imposed (see above), and doctors are held  accountable for patient behavior, innovative physicians are rethinking their practices - for which patients can be glad.

Bad Data; Big Delay

Two reports on  health care "quality" and  health care "disparities" are four years behind the times. The 2011 reports, released April 20, 2012, use data from  2008 when Obama was elected, Castro retired, NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned, China hosted the Olympics, "Bloody Friday" shook stock markets, and Bernie Madoff was arrested. The world has moved on, but the feds are stuck in the past, reporting old data, categorizing patients by "race," "gender," age and income, using unacceptable measures of "quality," focusing on controversial "Priority Populations" (e.g. transgender), associating outcomes with providers, not patients - and seeking new policies with old data. 

Obesity Threatens National Security?

This week the federal government hosted a  "Weight of the Nation" conference. The Institute of Medicine also released a  report advocating: taxes on soda, reduced size of soda cans, implementation of employer wellness policies, routine obesity screening, schools as centers of prevention, reduced availability of unhealthy food, and monitoring the weight of pregnant women.  A backlash has already begun. The conference objectives included coordinating more effectively with the media. Thus,  HBO is doing a "Weight of the Nation" program May 14-15. The trailer suggests overweight individuals and their lifestyle choices are a threat to national security: "Obesity is the biggest threat to the health, welfare and future of this country."




Stats of the Week:

$77,212 - annual cost of insurance for families in NJ.

$34,128 - annual cost of insurance for individuals in NJ ("guaranteed issue").

$2,606 - average annual cost of health insurance in Iowa.




News Release of the Week:

Don't Sign: HIPAA Shares Patient Data with 2.2 Million Organizations

St. Paul, Minn. - It happens to all of us each time we go to the doctor. A piece of paper is pushed across the desk for us to sign, acknowledging our receipt of the "privacy practices" of the hospital, doctor's office or clinic.

But did you know you are not required to sign that form? In fact, according to one patient advocate, signing the form could actually jeopardize your patient freedoms in the future.

"By federal law, you are not required to sign the clinic or hospital HIPAA 'privacy' form, even if the clinic or hospital tries to insist that you must," says Twila Brase, president and cofounde of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom, a patient-centered national health policy organization based in St. Paul, Minn. "The form has nothing to do with consent or health privacy. The form is actually just an acknowledgment that you have received and understood the clinic or hospital's 'Notice of Privacy Practices,' which given the permissive access allowed, could better be described as a Notice of Data Disclosure Practices.   Continue reading




Featured Health Freedom Minute:

Costco Offers Health Insurance

I have interesting news: Costco and Aetna have teamed up to offer individual health insurance policies as you shop. Imagine walking out with four jugs of milk, three bags of chips, a tray of shrimp, a two-gallon tub of peanut butter and a brand new health insurance policy.   Continue reading

Twila Brase broadcasts a daily, 60-second radio feature, Health Freedom Minute, which brings health care issues to light for the American public. Health Freedom Minute airs on the entire American Family Radio Network, with more than 150 stations nationwide in addition to Bott Radio Network with over 80 stations nationwide.

Click here to listen to this week's features.

 

Citizens' Council for Health Freedom
161 St. Anthony Avenue, Ste 923
St. Paul, MN 55103
Phone: 651.646.8935 • Fax: 651.646.0100
Email: info@cchfreedom.org
www.cchfreedom.org



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