Loss of Medical Privacy? Is that OK?

Yesterday, Phil Galewitz reported for Kaiser Health News (reprinted in USA Today) on a practice that is one of my biggest disappointments in our health care system, the sale of our personal health information for the benefit of someone else.  I do not mean the use of de-identified medical information to improve public health, medical quality, enhancement our ability to treat disease, or even for law enforcement.  I am talking about the use of your individual health information to try to sell you something else that you may or not need.  Did you ever wonder why all of a sudden you started getting ads for diabetes supplies?  Or why ads for erectile dysfunction started arriving in your mailbox as well as your email?  It is because your personally identifiable medical information is being shared to improve the bottom lines of those who have access to your medical records.  The story highlighted the practices of hospitals that use information from their medical records to peddle other services to their current or former patients  Partnering with mass marketing companies, your hospital knows a lot more about you than is present in their records.  For example, if you smoke, you get a directed ad for lung cancer screening.   Believe me, when you come in for a “screening,” something can almost always be found that ”needs” to be done.    Screening can be a hospital’s or doctor’s best friend.  It all depends on how ethical or financially strapped the provider is that determines how far evidence-based scientific medical practice will be stretched.  Examples of abuse are easy to find. Continue reading “Loss of Medical Privacy? Is that OK?”

Archbishop Fights Health Plan Policy.

I have been trying to find the time to branch out to other topics on this policy blog, but material related to issues of the recently failed merger/acquisition of University of Louisville Hospital by Catholic Health Initiatives keeps rolling in. Yesterday it was reporting by Peter Smith in the Courier-Journal on local Catholic Archbishop Joseph Kurtz’s tough talk about the new federal law requiring employers offering health insurance to cover birth control pills, morning-after pills, and certain other basic necessary health services related to reproductive and womens’ health. The Catholic Church equates contraception to murder, although even the large majority of American Catholics and most of the rest of us do not agree.

The coverage requirements do not apply to churches or other purely religious communities such as convents, although presumably some (but not all) of the covered services would not be missed in such institutions. The new law only extends to entities such as hospitals and universities in the public marketplace that would hire non-Catholic employees.

Bishop Kurtz complains that, “People of faith cannot be made second-class citizens,” and that his religious ancestors did not come to these shores “only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights.” He complains further that the new law “has cast aside the first amendment … denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.” The Bishop apparently fails to see any irony that by forcing employees or patients in hospitals like University Hospital to follow his religious dogma, that he is guilty of violating the freedoms of others, god-given or otherwise! Reverend Simmons, a minister and teacher of medical ethics in of Louisville says it better, “that the only freedom being cast aside is the “liberty to enforce their opinions on others.” Continue reading “Archbishop Fights Health Plan Policy.”