Congress has moved us one step closer to establishing a unique patient identifier (UPI) system. The UPI is meant to act like a passport into the healthcare system and to aid healthcare institutions in matching patients with their medical records.
A unique number assigned to every American that gives access to that person’s full medical records to every doctor, hospital, researcher, and public health department in the country. What could go wrong?
If this sounds ominous to you, you’re not alone. This all started with the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA, which required Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue every citizen a UPI. The Act, which allegedly protected patient privacy, actually gave legal access to your records without your knowledge to an estimated 800,000 parties. After a public outcry, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) added language to a spending bill in 1998 prohibiting federal funds from being used to develop UPIs. This language has prevented the development of UPI—until now.
Now, President Trump has signed a bill that makes federal funds available to aid the private sector in developing a “patient-matching strategy.”
The public has demonstrated strong opposition to UPI. Polling has showed that 88% of Americans oppose requiring all patient medical records to be stored in a national computerized database over their lifetime; 78% said that it is very important that no one have access to their medical information without their permission. This desire for privacy is severely undermined now that Rep. Paul’s prohibition has been eliminated.
It would be hard to enumerate all the possibilities for abuse and discrimination with UPI. Medical records can include demographic data, genetic information, family histories, treatments, personal comments, hospitalizations, and lifestyle information. Putting all of this in one place makes it ripe for identity thieves and other criminals—a trend that is already skyrocketing with electronic health records. It could give the government an opportunity to coerce individuals into getting all the CDC-recommended vaccines. Moreover, it could make it more difficult to avoid being an involuntary research subject.
The bottom line is that a person’s medical information is among the most sensitive information there is, and is meant only for that patient and his or her doctor. We must oppose this latest government intrusion into our private lives.
Action Alert! Tell Congress to immediately repeal the appropriations language that instructs HHS to work with the private sector to develop a “patient-matching strategy.” Please send your message immediately.
BY ANH-USA ON