National Patient ID Would Violate Patient Privacy Rights

CCHC Asks Congress to Dismiss Rand Study Funded by Data Industry

Minnepolis/Saint Paul -- Responding to a major study released yesterday by the Rand Corporation, Citizens' Council on Health Care says Congress should maintain its long-standing prohibition on development of a national patient identification number, otherwise known as the Unique Patient Identifier (UPI).

"Congress must dismiss the data industry's apparent call to centralize, nationalize and socialize private medical information. American privacy rights must be protected from those who wish to impose corporate agendas including unconsented data sharing, patient and doctor profiling, health surveillance, research, and industry profiteering," says Twila Brase, president of CCHC.

"A government-established patient identifier and the implementation of a government-imposed health data system will violate patient rights, privacy rights and constitutional rights," she adds.

Brase further says, "The breaches of a national health data system enabled by a national patient ID will be spectacular. Medical ID theft will be enabled. And patients will lose their ability to control and limit outside access to the most private details of their medical and personal lives."

"The Rand study was funded by some of the largest corporations in the health information technology industry, including Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Siemens. Certainly the conclusion of the study would economically benefit those who funded it through the sale of equipment and software. Thus the funders would appear to be motivated by profit, not principle," notes Brase.

In response to an invitation, Brase testified on the proposed Unique Patient Identifier at the 1998 hearing held in Chicago by the National Committee on Vital Health Statistics. Privacy and patient concerns surrounding the Unique Patient Identifier made front page news the next day in the New York Times. As a result, Congress choose not to fund the development of the Unique Patient Identifier. Although the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been prohibited from developing the UPI by Congress, the provision remains in federal law as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

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