An amendment to the FY 2001 Health and Human Services appropriations bill
to prohibit funding for the assignment of unique patient health identifiers
was passed by the House of Representatives last night, extending a moratorium
on funding in place since 1998.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas

Two years ago, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced a similar amendment
prohibiting the federal government from funding the health identifier portion
of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress
in 1996. It was his measure that was again accepted by the House Tuesday, Paul
spokesman Tom Lizardo told WorldNetDaily.

The voice vote adding the measure to other House legislation will keep the
unique health identifier program unfunded for now, allaying privacy concerns
among citizens and health-care advocates alike — concerns which Twila Brase,
a registered nurse and president of the

Citizen’s Council on Health Care,
said are valid.

“A government numbering system will lead to government surveillance,” Brase said Monday. “Government surveillance will introduce distrust between patients and doctors, and distrust will result in delayed access to care, incomplete sharing of information [between patient and doctor] and improper diagnoses.”

The health identifier is a leftover piece of legislation originating with first lady Hillary Clinton’s failed 1994 universal health care plan. Since the defeat of that measure by a Democrat-controlled Congress, bits and pieces of it — including the health ID number — have been resurrected in other bills.

To illustrate the claim, Blase pointed to a new federal home health data collection system — which became effective in 1999 — that collects a wealth of personal information without patient consent.

The system, called OASIS — or Outcome and Assessment Information System — collects “financial, medical, educational, relational and behavioral information without patient consent on all adult non-maternity patients receiving home health, whether they receive public assistance, use private insurance or pay cash.”

A national patient identification system “would enhance the government’s collection efforts,” she told WorldNetDaily yesterday. “As with OASIS, all surveillance would be justified for purposes of quality assurance, fraud prevention and public policy formulation.”

Brase also decried a lack of privacy considerations in “the so-called medical privacy regulations” proposed in 1999. Those rules, she said, would allow “unprecedented” access to medical records without patient consent and “would specifically forbid asking for patient consent in certain instances.” Brase told WorldNetDaily that 13 entities, “including medical researchers, law enforcement agents, and government officials” would have access to patient data “without patient consent.”

CCHC said the Department of Health and Human Services had received over 54,000 public comments about the proposed rules and are “in the process of evaluating them prior to issuing a final rule.”

The imposition of unique health identifiers would not have proven beneficial for “patients, individual liberty, or our health care system,” Brase said.

Previous stories:

Medical privacy threatened?

Privacy issues move to forefront

Health providers sound privacy alarm

Say goodbye to medical privacy

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.