Rep. Barton: Obamacare 'Running Over' Privacy Rights

Friday, 25 Oct 2013 03:34 PM

By Wanda Carruthers

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Rep. Joe Barton accused the Obama administration Friday of "running over" the privacy rights of individuals by using hidden codes in the HealthCare.gov website.

"The Obama administration is hiding that they're running over your privacy rights," the Texas Republican said on Fox News' "America's Newsroom."

"The law, specifically designed to protect your medical privacy, HIPAA, in my mind is being violated under this law," he added, referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

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The Texas Republican made the same charge at Thursday's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the problems with the Obamacare enrollment website, which requests personal information from people who are registering.

At one point, Rep. Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, engaged Barton in a heated exchange, telling him that he was wrong to raise HIPAA privacy concerns. Pallone said the law is "not in play here today" because Obamacare prohibits questions about pre-existing medical conditions and because insurance companies will be banned from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions beginning in January.

But Barton insisted to Fox News that the enrollment questionnaire "does ask medical questions."

"It does ask a woman if you're pregnant, if you have any mental, physical, or emotional condition that would preclude any activity. Asks if you're a smoker. And, of course, it has your Social Security number," Barton said.

"It also asks if you have any health insurance. And if you do, what your policy number is and what your company is. So there's all kinds of health information asked," Barton added.

The problems regarding privacy issues are fixable, Barton said.

"They can change that code. They can delete it. They can put a clear specific right to privacy protection that people see," he insisted.

As an enrollment alternative, Barton said he plans to introduce legislation to allow people without health insurance to sign up voluntarily for Obamacare. It would do away with the individual mandate in the law that requires people without insurance to sign up for the government plan or face a tax penalty.

"On the bigger problem of Obamacare itself, it's just not working. And so I am introducing the OCA, the Obamacare Choice Act, which makes it voluntary for a year. Not delay it. Go ahead and let it go into place. But let people choose to participate or not," he said.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected to testify before the Energy and Commerce Committee next week over concerns about Obamacare. Barton said he would quiz her on the privacy issue.

"I'm going to ask her who made the decision to hide the privacy waiver. I'm going to ask her to fix it. And I'm going to ask some questions about the cost.

"And then I'm going to ask her to make it voluntary, or delaying it, until we get it right. And if we can't get it right, let's repeal it," he said.

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