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State wants iris scan to get medicine

A plan being proposed by three lawmakers in Colorado, Reps. Ken Summers and Tom Massey and Sen. Betty Boyd, would require consumers to submit to a biometric scan of their retina or provide a fingerprint in order to get medication.

The plan is HB12-1242 and is under consideration by the Colorado Assembly, which is deliberating the demand that “practitioners and PDOs (prescription drug outlets)” install and maintain “biometric scanning devices and to use those devices to obtain a biometric scan of a person’s biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint or retinal scan, and to submit the scan to the database.”

The pharmacies would have to “prior to prescribing or dispensing a prescription drug or dispensing a restricted over-the-counter substance … submit specified information to the [state] database.”

That information would include details about the drug and the doctor who prescribed it as well as the “name and address of the person receiving the substance.”

Officials with Colorado’s Independence Institute noted that the plan is in addition to another proposal regarding the existing “All-Payer Health Claims Database” which already allows officials to “collect whatever medical data [they wish] from every health care ‘payer’ in the state. … Fines may be levied on the noncompliant.”

“As if the APDB isn’t enough, Reps. Summers and Massey, along with Sen. Betty Boyd are sponsoring HB12-1242. Under that bill, you won’t be able to get prescription medications or controlled over-the-counter medications without providing a biometric identifier like a fingerprint or a retinal scan. Failure to comply would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, a crime as serious as the possession of child pornography or third degree assault,” said a commentary by Linda Gorman and Amy Oliver of the Institute.

“If requiring voters to show ID is an unacceptable infringement of rights, so is requiring people to choose between health care and personal privacy. Officials who fail to repeal the APDB enable the ongoing assault on individual liberty,” they said, citing the ongoing battle between concerned lawmakers who want voters to provide ID to protect the integrity of elections and judges who repeatedly have thrown out such requirements.

The lawmakers’ own description of their plan says the state would have to set up an “electronic system to monitor and store in a secure database” information about prescriptions.

The information that is collected would be stored by the state, and in addition would be used to raise alerts about medications that may “overlap.” Additionally, “The database may retain encrypted personal protected health care information in the case of electronic prescriptions if the only entity able to decrypt the information is the intended prescription drug outlet for delivery or dispensing.

“This section does not preclude practitioners and prescription drug outlets from retaining personal information about their patients that is collected and maintained in their regular course of business in compliance with applicable law.”

The Institute commentary noted that the APDB, now two years old, now is planning to privatize, and then “sell your health data to commercial interests at $50,000 a pop, and to charge providers for providing required data.”

“Medical privacy? They’e pretending about that, too,” the commentary aid. “CEO Phil Kalin recently wrote, ‘No identified data will be available in the datasets or reports we provide. Social Security numbers and personal health information will be stripped, a unique identified assigned.’ But he also wrote that ‘public health agencies want to understand patterns of disease diagnosis and treatment, and whether public education campaigns are followed by increased preventive services provided to patients.”

The commentary noted this observation from University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm: “Data can be either useful or perfectly anonymous but never both.”

“In short, a database used to evaluate treatment efficacy and value must include all the data of a clinical trial. That means all of the information available to your physician, pharmacist, and hospital, and information about your personal habits, income, education, and family life,” the commentary warned.

“With all this data it won’t be hard to figure out, or steal, the identity of the unidentified married white female teacher who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighs 160 pounds, was born on Jan. 2, 1985, is married, has two children aged 5 and 7, had appendicitis treated at Poudre Valley Hospital 6 years ago, had her second child at Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs, had an abortion three years ago, is in therapy, contracted giardia on a trip to New Zealand, is on the pill, and lives in zip code 80908.”

The commentary warned that while data on paper in an office is hard to steal, “It becomes insecure when it is uploaded to an electronic database.”

The proposal is just the latest in an ongoing fight over medical records as Obamacare is being implemented. The federal plan is to require online records and has raised concerns among privacy advocates.

The Colorado lawmakers also specify the urgency of their proposal: “The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”