9-18-15 – Vermont’s Attack on Patient Privacy

by John McClaughry

The State of Vermont is demanding that Liberty Mutual insurance company turn over all of its medical claims data to the Green Mountain Care Board. A federal appeals court has held that Liberty Mutual, which manages self-insured ERISA plans for large companies, doesn’t have to do it. So now the state, led by attorney general William Sorrell, is appealing to the Supreme Court to get its way.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals cited privacy concerns as a reason for its ruling:  “Vermont requires ERISA plans to record, in specified format, massive amounts of claim information, and to report that information to third parties, creating significant (and obvious) privacy risks and financial burdens.”..

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons have filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court

in support of patient privacy.  The brief explains how researchers at Harvard demonstrated that it was possible to re-identify the Governor of a state as the patient for medical records, despite the removal of several personal identifiers.

The reason the Shumlin administration is so hot to get hold of everybody’s medical claims data is so it can stumble forward toward the Governor’s goal of single payer health care. Under single payer, the state will control who pays what for which patients, and the state is not concerned with your privacy.

Fortunately for our privacy, Sorrell has been a serial loser at the Supreme Court.

John McClaughry is founder and vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Peg C September 24, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Most recently I was told by a HIPPA rep., “If a person has cancer, they are automatically listed in the national registry of cancer patients.” There is no warning, in the now very condensed version of HIPPA a patient signs for. If you didn’t know, you couldn’t refuse to be added to a “high risk” list. (At some point there will be death panels.) When talking to a doctor’s office, I realized I was on speaker phone. I immediately questioned the my privacy rights and was told by the office manager, HIPPA did not matter; whereas I told them they could call me back if I was NOT on speaker and I would talk to them then and hung up.
Be very careful. You are the best person to guard your own privacy. Do not rely on someone to reassure you that your sensitive information is ‘safe’ with them.


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