Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Where is HIPAA when you really need it?
Civil libertarians-and even folks who are not that libertarian-are alarmed at the actions of public health officials in New York. According to news report,hemoglobin A1c levels are being reported from the labs who perform the test without the consent of the patients or the physician involved.Carrying nanny- state activities to new levels may be an understatement. Cynics might say that HIPAA never was really about protecting patient confidentiality but rather making sure that everyone use the same set of insurance billing codes with the result being very large savings for the insurance industry and the confidentiality trappings were appended by the Clinton policy wonks later.It was never designed to protect patient privacy from the government.In a way, it is not surprising for a public health department to dive into diabetes or other chronic illnesses as the introductory statements of many medical articles begin with an almost obligatory comment characterizing the condition being discussed as a "public health problem" by which the authors probably really mean it is common and important and not that the public health agencies should get involved..To put some real teeth into a program like this might require reporting from grocery stores to the public health folks to see who is buying pecan pie and twinkies.