Ron Paul
1998 Ron Paul Chapter 82

The Patient Privacy Act

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21 July 1998

Tuesday, July 21, 1998

1998 Ron Paul 82:1
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Patient Privacy Act, which repeals those sections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 authorizing the establishment of a “standard unique health care identifier” for all Americans. This identifier would then be used to create a national database containing the medical history of all Americans. Establishment of such an identifier would allow federal bureaucrats to track every citizen’s medical history from cradle to grave. Furthermore, it is possible that every medical professional, hospital, and Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) in the country would be able to access an individual citizens’ record simply by entering the patient’s identifier into the national database.

1998 Ron Paul 82:2
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. Oftentimes, effective treatment depends on a patient’s ability to place absolute trust in his or her doctor. What will happen to that trust when patients know that any and all information given their doctor will be placed in a data base accessible by anyone who knows the patient’s “unique personal identifier?”

1998 Ron Paul 82:3
I ask my colleagues, how comfortable would you be confiding any emotional problem, or even an embarrassing physical problem like impotence, to your doctor if you knew that this information could be easily accessed by friend, foe, possible employers, coworkers, HMOs, and government agents?

1998 Ron Paul 82:4
Mr. Speaker, the Clinton administration has even come out in favor of allowing law enforcement officials access to health care information, in complete disregard of the fifth amendment. It is bitterly ironic that the same administration that has proven so inventive at protecting its privacy has so little respect for physician-patient confidentiality.

1998 Ron Paul 82:5
Many of my colleagues will admit that the American people have good reason to fear a government-mandated health ID card, but they will claim such problems can be “fixed” by additional legislation restricting the use of the identifier and forbidding all but certain designated persons to access those records.

1998 Ron Paul 82:6
This argument has two flaws. First of all, history has shown that attempts to protect the privacy of information collected by, or at the command, of the government are ineffective at protecting citizens from the prying eyes of government officials. I ask my colleagues to think of the numerous cases of IRS abuses that were brought to our attention in the past few months, the history of abuse of FBI files, and the case of a Medicaid clerk in Maryland who accessed a computerized database and sold patient names to an HMO. These are just some of many examples that show that the only effective way to protect privacy is to forbid the government from assigning a unique number to any citizen.

1998 Ron Paul 82:7
The second, and most important reason, legislation “protecting” the unique health identifier is insufficient is that the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to force citizens to adopt a universal health identifier, regardless of any attached “privacy protections.” Any federal action that oversteps constitutional limitations violates liberty for it ratifies the principle that the federal government, not the Constitution, is the ultimate arbitrator of its own jurisdiction over the people. The only effective protection of the rights of citizens is for Congress and the American people to follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice and “bind (the federal government) down with the chains of the Constitution.”

1998 Ron Paul 82:8
For those who claim that the Patient Privacy Act would interfere with the plans to “simplify” and “streamline” the health care system, under the Constitution, the rights of people should never take a backseat to the convenience of the government or politically powerful industries like HMOs.

1998 Ron Paul 82:9
Mr. Speaker, the federal government has no authority to endanger the privacy of personal medical information by forcing all citizens to adopt a uniform health identifier for use in a national data base. A uniform health ID endangers the constitutional liberties, threatens the doctor-patient relationships, and could allow federal officials access to deeply personal medical information. There can be no justification for risking the rights of private citizens. I therefore urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the Patient Privacy Act.

1998 Ron Paul 82:1 an individual citizens’ probably should be an individual citizen’s.

1998 Ron Paul 82:4 fifth amendment probably should be capitalized: Fifth Amendment.

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