Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican and a Tea Party Caucus member, is sounding the alarm over a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would aggregate confidential patient information into a single government database.
Huelskamp explained that one of his constituents alerted him to the proposed rule in September, and said that was the impetus for his trip down the data-records trail.
“We just happened to find this because a Kansan came up to us and said, ‘You know what, I’m concerned about this,’ and I’m glad they did,” Huelskamp told The Heritage Foundation’s Bloggers Briefing Tuesday.
According to the proposed rule the government will collect Americans’ personal medical data to determine risk scores and state averages. This, the rule-makers suggest, will ensure “a robust risk adjustment process” which will help compare different programs’ performance and outcomes.
HHS is considering three possibilities for data collection, including a “(1) A centralized approach in which issuers submit raw claims data sets to HHS; (2) an intermediate State-level approach in which issuers submit raw claims data sets to the State government, or the entity responsible for administering the risk adjustment process at the State level; and (3) a distributed approach in which each issuer must reformat its own data to map correctly to the risk assessment database and then pass on self-determined individual risk scores and plan averages to the entity responsible for assessing risk adjustment charges and payments.”
According to Huelskamp, Americans have reason to worry about a mass government database containing their sensitive personal medical information. He pointed out that the government has a long history of data breaches, noting that there have been hundreds of millions of data breaches in the last ten years. The congressman cited the 2006 Veterans Affairs data breach, in which the personal data relating to 26.5 million veterans were compromised.
“This puts a bureaucrat, at whatever level, between you and your doctor,” he said. “And that is the core of what is wrong with Obamacare.” (RELATED: White House threatens to veto bill prohibiting abortion funding in Obamacare)
Huelskamp also explained that both Democrats and Republicans will be upset if the database moves forward. “You’re not going to find a constituent in my town halls say ‘wait a minute — I’d love to have Kathleen Sebelius or anybody else have access to my medical records.’”
“This is one of those that [the administration] knows [Americans] are going to be upset and it’s again, another Achilles’ heel in the President’s health care plan.”
Huelskamp said Republicans plan to insert language into the next House appropriations bill that would halt the database through the remainder of the 2011–2012 fiscal year.
“This is one which can cut any which way you’d like to cut it politically, and that is why I think it is so powerful — because it is core. The federal government wants our data,” he said. “That’s the only way they can implement the president’s health care plan. Which is why I think they are going to push back.”
Huelskamp added that HHS has extended the public comment period for the new rule through the end of the month.