Privacy by convenience? Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp pointed out what he says is Kathleen Sebelius’s double standard on patient privacy: one standard for abortion records while she was governor of Kansas, and another for Obamacare as Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Back in 2006, Sebelius championed patient privacy rights as a reason to forbid the disclosure of anonymous abortion information to the state.
“[W]e can never take our health privacy for granted,” she wrote in her 2006 veto of legislation that would have required physicians to give information to the state about late-term abortions.
But according to Huelskamp, Sebelius was only concerned about defending the abortion industry in Kansas, and privacy was just a convenient excuse.
“The issue about defending Planned Parenthood and pro-abortionists here in Kansas was not about personal privacy rights. It was an excuse,” he said. “She was defending the abortion industry.”
Under Sebelius, HHS is considering instituting an Obamacare risk adjustment program that would create a national database of all Americans’ health care records.
And this month Kansas prosecutors revealed that the Sebelius administration destroyed abortion records that were sought in a 2003–2005 criminal investigation of Planned Parenthood in Kansas.
Former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline launched that investigation into the abortion providers Planned Parenthood and George Tiller, based on “credible information” that they were failing to report child abuse.
“These records the Sebelius administration destroyed were not medical records; they were actually much less sensitive. They were records that were required by law to ensure the abortion clinics were complying with the law,” Kline told TheDC. “They are really compliance records. They do not contain patient names but they do contain their ages. Also, with assistance we could determine the abortion clinics that performed the abortions.”
If Planned Parenthood was covering up child abuse, Kline — who is now facing ethics charges himself for misleading state agencies about his investigation — explained that it would have resulted in the loss of federal funding to the group.
“The Sebelius administration in Kansas, when it knew these records were pertinent to a criminal investigation which could cause the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars to a key political ally, started destroying these records claiming privacy,” Kline said. “It is somewhat disingenuous to now say all Americans must reveal the full nature of their medical records to the federal government and to Kathleen Sebelius.”
Huelskamp’s office has composed a letter of opposition to the database and will be sending it to Sebelius once he has amassed a critical number of signatories. So far he has 42.
“One of the most intimate relationships Americans have is with their doctors. The idea that you will have Kathleen Sebelius, a bureaucrat, or any other politician have access to that information is a profound violation of personal privacy,” he told TheDC. “Even if you say ‘don’t worry,’ which is the current response from HHS, our office has put together a list of — in the last decade or so — of about 550 million violations of personal privacy, data breaches by either federal or state governments or contractors or local officials. Your data isn’t safe with them. It doesn’t belong in their hands.”
An HHS spokesman explained to TheDC in an emailed statement that despite such concerns, the information will be secure. The spokesman did not address the discrepancy between Sebelius’ view of patient privacy in Kansas and her understanding of it at HHS.
“Neither HHS nor states will collect any personally identifiable data in implementing this policy. Protecting the privacy of Americans’ health information is a top priority of the Obama administration. We have taken important steps to improve the security of people’s information and will continue to do so in all that we do to improve health care.”
Huelskamp said he is working with Montana Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg’s office to insert language to stall the proposed rule in the next appropriations bill, but adds that the prohibitions of funds would only run to the end of the fiscal year.
“It is progress, but in order to completely stop it we would need to repeal that provision in Obamacare,” he said. “But by the appropriations process, that is the only avenue we have.”