A New York neurologist is warning of a dangerous problem with government databases that are declaring people dead when they are very much alive.
The Obamacare website has received notoriety for a variety of ailments – including registering a dog in Colorado and telling a 63-year-old man he was ineligible for insurance due to being incarcerated, despite the fact he has never been arrested – but now the program is, as the popular saying goes, “seeing dead people.” Only unlike the film that popularized the phrase, these “dead” people are very much alive.
The Washington Post recently reported that at least 750 living Americans each month are being declared dead by the government bureaucracy.
Being declared dead prematurely is nothing new. Mark Twain once famously said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In 1998, during a live broadcast of C-SPAN, a member of the House of Representatives announced that comedian Bob Hope had died, despite his being very much alive at the time.
In each of these cases when the mistake was discovered, those making the claims quickly admitted their mistake.
However, when it comes to the federal government officially declaring a person to be dead, they show no inkling of admitting their error – and that’s creating major headaches for supposedly “dead” patients and their doctors alike.
Dr. Lawrence Huntoon, a board-certified neurologist in Derby, N.Y., told WND with the growing trend to use, collect and maintain large databases, the government is establishing a system where anything can be claimed medically about a person whether it is true or not.
“The problem is once wrong information gets into the electronic database, it’s very difficult to get it corrected or get it out of there,” Huntoon sid. “What happens is the flawed data is now spread more efficiently among different agencies, and that’s not good.”
The reason people are being declared dead by federal agencies is the method in which information is disseminated between agencies. The Social Security Administration has a Death Master File, which is shared with at least six other federal agencies including the IRS and Medicare.
When these agencies get the information rather than verify it independently, they simply take the SSA at their word. The problem is there is no quality control system to ensure the information is correct. In fact, according to one employee, inaccuracy is built into the system.
“We get criticized for not having all these records be accurate,” Marianna LaCanfora, the Social Security official whose division oversees this function told the Washington Post. “And the fact is, they were never intended to be 100-percent accurate.”
Huntoon stated he knows first-hand how difficult it is to get a patient out of the bureaucratic maze once the government gets it into their head a person is dead.
Huntoon told WND he had a patient, a woman in her 80s, that was declared dead by Medicare. When she contacted Huntoon about the issue, he sent approximately 20 letters to bureaucrats at Medicare attempting to convince them that he had examined the woman and she was very much alive.
“Each time I contacted them, rather than accept my diagnosis that she was alive, they insisted that I, as a licensed physician in the State of New York, was wrong, and they were correct in determining the woman was dead,” Huntoon told WND.
What became even more problematic for the patient was that Medicare refused to pay her medical bills, because according to them she is deceased and thus no longer eligible for coverage.
One might think a person declared dead could skirt their own medical bills by simply going to the emergency room for all their medical issues, since by law hospitals are required to treat people, even those the government thinks are “dead.” However, Hutoon says the hospital could face repercussions if they did so.
“A hospital could actually be accused of fraud by the federal government for providing care to a dead person,” Hutoon explained.
People jokingly say it will take an act of Congress to change a particular law or procedure that makes no sense, and in the case of Hutoon’s patient, that is nearly what had to happen.
Huntoon explained that he contacted former Congressman Amo Houghton, who intervened and contacted Medicare managers on behalf of his constituent.
Despite the congressman’s intervention, bureaucrats with the health-care agency refused to give the woman her name back. They insisted that in order to once again qualify for Medicare benefits she would need to change her name and get a new Medicare number. It was only after further intervention by Congress that employees with Medicare agreed to let her keep her name.
Hutoon says this issue of incorrect records is a real danger when it comes to the push for electronic records: “These are shared databases, and a lot of people have access to the information. There are a lot more people that have access to a person’s medical records than before HIPAA was passed.”
He explained that with the size of these government databases, once incorrect information about a patient gets into their record the incorrect information can stay there indefinitely.
“My mother-in-law, who is in her 90s now, has it in her medical records that she is a smoker, but she has never smoked a day in her life,” Hutoon told WND. “This claim is now out there for doctors all across the country to see, despite it not being true.”
“We’re beginning to see a pattern of incompetence here that is manifesting itself with the rollout of Obamacare and the website,” Huntoon said. “What is stunning is how they actually argue with you. Even when they are totally proven wrong, they never say they are sorry, because they aren’t.”