When you go to the doctor’s office, you probably see “HIPAA” on a sign or in the paperwork you fill out. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects your heath history and privacy. At least, on the surface…
Hospitals and doctors’ offices are supposed to abide by HIPPA. They may make you get your test results in person, instead of telephone or fax. If they share patient information they must delete anything that identifies you. This is the Safe Harbor Rule.
Most places do follow these rules. The problem is HIPPA has one very big loophole.
State public health agencies are exempt from the Safe Harbor Rule.
That means when a health database includes shared medical records, personal information is still there. So, whoever is looking at the database can trace your identity back to your specific record.
You may not think it’s a big deal if another hospital or medical group is looking at your records. They are medical professionals, after all. But what if your records were getting into other hands? Someone who could use your history to their advantage?
People who have no business looking at your medical records can get easy access this way…
Your medical records—with your identity intact—are being sold. And the web of buyers is large enough to affect your health insurance, the prescriptions doctors give you, and even your job.
Over 25 states release identifiers such as your age, zip code, and admission and discharge dates. It makes it pretty easy for people to track you down and discriminate against you based on your history.
“All I have to know is a little bit about a person and when they went to a hospital, and I can find their medical record in this kind of data,” said Latanya Sweeney, director of Harvard University’s Data Privacy Lab.
We’re not surprised that Big Pharma is right in the middle of the action. They’re always in the mix and ready to jump at a chance to target new patients. You are no exception.
They analyze your prescription drug use and help recruiters identify top-performing physicians.
From that they can design ads for doctors to push their drugs. The more prescriptions doctors write the more money Big Pharma makes.
But Big Pharma’s not the only one forking over the money for your private info. Prescription data providers also purchase records to benefit their needs. Insurance companies too. And it only hurts you.
If a health insurer knows your medical history they may refuse you coverage. Or hike up your cost, if you’re a risk to their wallet.
Companies can penalize you without you even knowing it. You could lose out on jobs.
Thankfully, not everyone in the medical field agrees with these actions.
Many doctors are worried that as the public becomes more aware of what’s going on they may stop seeking professional help.
They’re afraid if you have a specific issue you may not see a doctor out of embarrassment or fear of who will see your records.
You rely on doctor-patient confidentiality. But if your records just to the highest bidder, then that trust is gone.
If no one speaks up nothing will change. You and the medical industry will continue to be stuck with poor security and legal loopholes.
Take action today! Ask Congress to amend HIPAA to allow patients to opt out. To keep your medical information from being sold or shared with anyone that does not currently treating you. CLICK HERE to tell Congress to keep your private medical information truly private.