August 19, 1998
Americans were outraged to learn about the Federal Government's plans to assign a
personal identification number to every medical patient. But Congress nevertheless passed H.R.
4250, the so-called Patient Protection Act, which allows anyone who maintains your personal
medical records to gather, exchange and distribute them.
The only condition on distribution is that the information be used for "health care
operations," which is a vague and meaningless limitation that does not even exclude marketing.
Even worse, H.R. 4250 preempts state laws that currently protect patients from unauthorized
distribution of their medical records.
While the sponsors of H.R. 4250 claim that they did not intend for the information to be
circulated for "just anything," their spokesman confirmed that personal medical records would
be used for future programs concerning health quality and disease management.
When the Kennedy-Kassebaum law was passed in 1996, we were told it was to improve
access to health insurance. The law became explosively controversial last month when the
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began to implement the Kennedy-Kassebaum
"unique health care identifiers" so that government can electronically tag, track and monitor
every citizen's personal medical records.
After this news broke on July 18, embarrassed Congressmen inserted a line in H.R. 4250,
which passed July 24, ordering HHS not to promulgate "a final standard" without Congressional
authorization. That language is a total phony; it doesn't prevent HHS from issuing proposed or
interim standards (which will become de facto standards) or from collecting medical data.
So much money is involved in accessing and controlling personal information that the
Washington lobbyists are moving rapidly to lock in the extraordinary powers conferred by the
Kennedy-Kassebaum law. That explains these sneaky eleventh-hour inserts in pending
On August 4, the House passed yet another bill to protect the gathering of personal
information on private citizens. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, there they go again.
Just before passing H.R. 2281, a bill about copyrights on the Internet, the House quietly
attached a separate and dangerous bill deceptively entitled the "Collections of Information
No one, of course, is in favor of "piracy," but the impact of this bill goes far beyond any
reasonable definition of piracy. By the legerdemain of inserting it in another bill, it will go
straight to a House-Senate conference committee under a procedure designed to avoid debate or
amendments in the Senate.
This Collections of Information bill (now part of H.R. 2281), in effect, creates a new
federal property right to own, manage and control personal information about you, including
your name, address, telephone number, medical records, and "any other intangible material
capable of being collected and organized in a systematic way." This new property right provides
a powerful incentive for corporations to build nationwide databases of the personal medical
information envisioned by the Kennedy-Kassebaum law and the Patient Protection bill.
Under the Collections of Information bill, any information about you can be owned and
controlled by others under protection of Federal law. Your medical chart detailing your visits to
your doctor, for example, would suddenly become the federally protected property of other
persons or corporations, and their rights (not your rights) would be protected by Federal police
This bill will encourage health care corporations to assign a unique national health
identifier to each patient. The government can then simply agree to use a privately-assigned
national identifier, and Clinton's longtime goal of government control of health care will be
This bill creates a new federal crime that penalizes a first offense by a fine of up to
$250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both, for interfering with this new property right.
It even authorizes Federal judges to order seizure of property before a finding of wrongdoing.
H.R. 2281 grants these new Federal rights only to private databases, and pretends to
exclude the government's own efforts to collect information about citizens. But a loophole in
the bill permits private firms to share their Federally protected data with the government so long
as the information is not collected under a specific government agency or license agreement.
This loophole will encourage corporations, foundations, Washington insiders and political
donors, to build massive databases of citizens' medical and other personal records, and then
share that data with the government. And, under the House-passed bill cynically called the
Patient Protection Act, patients would be unable to invoke state privacy laws to protect their
Meanwhile, in another aspect of the Federal takeover of all Americans' health care, the
Centers for Disease Control is aggressively building a national database of all children's medical
records through the ruse of tracking immunizations.
Tell your Congressman and Senators you won't vote for them in the upcoming elections
unless they immediately stop all Federal plans to track and monitor our health or immunization