A detailed set of guidelines explaining how State and Federal agencies will determine patient eligibility for Obamacare coverage was released late last week, and it authorizes government at all levels to pass around your personal medical information, as well as share it with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The guidelines call for local and Federal agencies to share patients’ sensitive medical information in order to vet anyone signing up for insurance under State-run “health care exchange” networks, ostensibly to determine which kinds of coverage they’re eligible for, and to make sure they’re enrolling at least for minimum coverage.
Since 2003, that kind of information sharing has been something for which hospitals and private insurers have had to show justification and, in certain instances, obtain patients’ permission, under the Title II “Privacy Rule” of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The new Obamacare guidelines essentially add multiple layers of Federal and State government to the list of entities that can share information.
And, unlike hospitals and insurers have had to do under HIPAA, Obamacare has no provision requiring government agencies to seek your permission before obtaining information about your medical history, lab work, history of insurance coverage and payment for medical bills.
The IRS will also have to have access to this information for the 2013 fiscal year (and beyond), in order to determine whether to penalize you for not enrolling in a coverage program and to enforce Obamacare for those who do participate in coverage through a State-managed exchange network.
That kind of access, particularly in the wake of unresolved scandals revealing a little of the IRS’s proclivity to corrupt manipulation at the hands of politicians in Washington, D.C., troubles a handful of Congressmen convinced that government is too big and too pervasive in Americans’ private lives.
Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner noted Monday that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has promised the government will only use patients’ personal information to help assess which Obamacare coverage is right for new applicants. But that’s a matter of faith, not law. And these days, everyone trusts the disgraced and discredited Federal government, don’t they?
The new ruling surprised some congressional critics. “This sounds as if HHS will have access to protected health info to me,” said one top Hill aide worried about how well the administration will protect that information.
Conservative groups like Americans for Tax Reform have raised questions about the release of PHI [Personal Health Information] in the aftermath of the IRS scandal.
Look closer at how HHS justifies its mandatory (under Obamacare) intrusion into patients’ privacy, and you’ll find the same smug, condescending paternalism, cloaked in the sort of Kafkaesque jargon liberals employ to conceal from their constituents the fact that they’re no smarter than anyone else, that defines the character of the Administration of President Barack Obama.
Essentially, HHS has the right to dip into your data because A) it’s the law, now; B) it’s the only way the government can become a player in the information cycle that, until now, has worked just fine without the government; and C) you’re accepting the devil’s bargain assistance of a government program (Obamacare), so you have to let us know you’re holding up your end of the generous bargain that’s been forced upon you by the Feds. (Now you know what it feels like to be a U.S. State.)
“The exchange would submit specific identifying information to HHS and HHS would verify applicant information with information from the federal and state agencies or programs that provide eligibility and enrollment information regarding minimum essential coverage. Such agencies or programs may include but are not limited to Veterans Health Administration, TRICARE, and Medicare,” said the new rule, which HHS is seeking public comment on.
“HHS will work with the appropriate federal and state agencies to complete the appropriate computer matching agreements, data use agreements, and information exchange agreements which will comply with all appropriate federal privacy and security laws and regulations. The information obtained from federal and state agencies will be used and re-disclosed by HHS as part of the eligibility determination and information verification process,” added the rule.
Explaining the PHI release ruling, HHS said Obamacare “is a government program providing public benefits, is expressly authorized to disclose PHI…that relates to eligibility for or enrollment in the health plan to HHS for verification of applicant eligibility for minimum essential coverage as part of the eligibility determination process for advance payments of the premium tax credit or cost-sharing reductions.”