01 Dec 2012 Welcome to the Doctor’s Office — Your Papers Please, by Cherylyn Harley LeBon
I recently took my daughter to our pediatric ophthalmologist — a physician she has seen for several years, and with whom we have a very good relationship.
At this appointment, however, the receptionist gave me three new forms to fill out. These forms were not the usual update forms. This new paperwork required specific and personal demographic information.
As I filled out the new forms, I wondered why my daughter’s eye doctor suddenly needed to keep track of things that seem irrelevant — such as the color of our skin.
When our doctor arrived and the exam got underway, it quickly veered away from ocular health he began asking off-topic questions — all of them invasive in nature. For example, I was asked: “Does anyone smoke in the home?” It’s not exactly relevant, but I went along with the inquiries.
Finally, after becoming curious and somewhat annoyed that a medical professional I’ve known for years and know to be conservative was suddenly incorporating such a probing line of questioning, I politely broke down and asked him: “What gives? Why do you need to need know whether or not I smoke?”
Our doctor explained that the forms meet new requirements for obtaining patient information to be compliant with the Obamacare health care takeover. That additional data, he said, is being collected and will be entered into a “government database.”
I mentioned this to several friends in e-mail conversations. To my surprise, this invasive information grab is developing into a pattern.
A friend in Pennsylvania took her twin boys to the pediatrician and was asked similar questions. Another friend in Virginia thought she was having informal “girlfriend chat” with her trusted, long-time physician before suddenly realizing that her doctor was writing everything down.
If the government now requires doctors to ask more probing questions, and our private information is being recorded and entered into some government database, it could lead to troubling implications.
Does anyone remember HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — that addressed the security and privacy of health data? A lot of time and effort was spent passing HIPAA, but I now question its effectiveness in the era of Obamacare.
A government database does not enhance my feeling of security with respect to my, or my family’s, private medical data.
Government has a spotty record of keeping confidential information out of the wrong hands. I do not want my medical information targeted by some overeager hacker who wants to make a big score and get bragging rights by cracking the code of the federal government’s massive database.
I also don’t want to find out that the information I gave to my doctor is now accessible by the folks at the IRS, EPA and maybe even the DMV. Forget about hacker — we’ve all heard stories about government workers abusing their authority to use government records for political and personal gain.
And who knows when we’ll start getting calls and letters from Uncle Sam asking us to change our habits — such as smoking — based on what can be found in the database? Will it be a suggestion or a demand? It’s not too hard to imagine a demand in an America where mayors — for our own good — are already using their power to bad certain food and drink and affixing a fine on those who don’t participate in “wellness” programs.
If my visit to my daughter’s ophthalmologist is any indication, we’re heading towards a future of more paperwork, less quality time spent between doctors and patients and more invasive questions being dumped into a “government database.” And possible increased threats to our privacy.
Welcome to the nanny state — it has officially arrived.
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Cherylyn Harley LeBon is co-chairman of the Project 21 black leadership network. She is a former Senior Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon. Comments may be sent to [email protected].
Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.