June 19, 2000
A Big Win for Medical Privacy in Congress
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed an amendment I proposed to an appropriations bill that will prohibit the federal government from imposing a "uniform standard health identifier" on the American people. This legislation will give Americans the peace of mind that comes from knowing that every detail of their lives is not being filed away. It restores and protects the fundamental privacy and due process rights that are the foundation of our system of government.
As a doctor, I know how crucial it is to insure people's privacy when speaking to their physicians. Unless Congress permanently forbids the development of a medical ID, Americans may not be able to talk to their doctors about matters that are of an utmost private nature without fear of having this information accessed by government agencies! As an OB/GYN with more than 30 years experience in private practice, I know better than most the importance of preserving the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship. What happens to that trust when patients know any and all information given to their doctor will be placed in a database accessible by anyone who knows the patient's 'unique personal identifier?
"Some members of Congress will claim that the federal government needs the power to monitor Americans in order to allow the government to operate more efficiently. I would remind my colleagues that, in a constitutional republic, the people are never asked to sacrifice their liberties to make the job of government officials a little bit easier. We are here to protect the freedom of the American people, not to make privacy invasion more efficient.
Millions of Americans are outraged over the increasing trend toward national ID cards, especially in light of the fact that the Social Security card has become mandatory in order to do business. In reality, the Social Security number has been transformed from an administrative device used to administer the Social Security program into a de facto national ID number. Today, most Americans cannot get a job, get married, open a bank account, or even get a fishing license without their Social Security numbers. Congress has been all too eager to expand the use of the Social Security number as a uniform identifier. This anger towards Washington would increase exponentially if Americans were informed that their doctors would not treat them until they produce their national health IDs.
No private organization has the power to abuse personal liberty on a massive scale as can the federal government. After all, consumers have the right to refuse to do business with any private entity that asks for a Social Security number, whereas citizens cannot lawfully refuse to deal with many government agencies. Furthermore, most of the major invasions of privacy, from the abuse of IRS files to the abuse of the FBI by administrations of both parties, have occurred by government agents. I can only imagine the havoc they could wreak if they were allowed to access an individual's medical records.
I am very pleased that my amendment to the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill passed the House. American citizens have the right to be free from the prying eyes of government bureaucrats. It is the only way to guarantee that medical IDs do not become a reality. By listening to the American people, we have terminated the uniform standard health identifier. This is a great victory for privacy rights. We have finally taken a stand against federal bureaucrats invading our privacy and recording every detail of our lives.