Tags: Feds | Keep | Pushing | National | Medical | Number

Feds Keep Pushing National Medical ID Number

Tuesday, 15 May 2001 12:00 AM

Never mind that you probably don’t want one. A Zogby poll just out on Monday shows nearly two-thirds of voters take a dim view of government maintaining computerized medical records on all Americans.

And never mind that since 1998, federal law has prohibited the development of a "unique health identifier for individuals” — a national medical ID number for every American.

That’s right. You don’t want it. Your elected Congress has passed a law forbidding it. But since when has that stopped faceless bureaucrats with police-state mentalities from forcing it on you anyway? Elections, laws, public opinion, they don’t matter. Professional bureaucrats stay put, and they’ve seen administrations come and go. Their agenda is undisturbed by what you think.

It has just been pointed out to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson that a year ago this month, during the Clinton administration, private health care entities were instructed to reserve a field in their health care programs for a forthcoming government-issued ID number for all Americans.

The exact wording reads: "The value ZZ, when used in this data element, shall be defined as ‘HIPAA Individual Identifier’ once the identifier has been adopted. Under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must adopt a standard individual indentifier for use in this transaction.”

"Note that this document says ‘when’ the identifier has been adopted, not ‘if’,” says House Majority Leader Dick Armey in a letter to Thompson. Further, he says, the document says HHS "must” adopt one, as if Congress had never spoken on the subject.

"Mr. Secretary,” the House leader continues, "are these May 2000 guidelines still in effect? If so, federal law is being violated. And I would respectfully urge you to take swift corrective action.”

The Clinton-era bureaucrats refer to a 1996 law but say nothing about a subsequent 1998 law that specifically outlaws a personal medical ID number.

There was a reason for the 1998 legislation. It was passed after it was learned that HHS was working on the medical ID concept. At the time, Vice President Al Gore rushed to assure the public that the project was suspended. Congress acted quickly to "put that in writing” with a law that remains in effect.

In his letter to Thompson, Congressman Armey says, "Imagine the implications for personal privacy if everyone had a government-issued medical ID number and the government had an unfettered search-and-seizure power over private medical records.”

Unfortunately, the Texas lawmaker notes, the "unfettered search and seizure power is currently poised to become law, thanks to the Clinton privacy regulations that are being finalized right now. The addition of a universal identifier would make that power all the more troubling.”

That is a reference to the 1,500-page medical "privacy” rule that President Bush approved over Secretary Thompson’s reported objections that the rule hindered privacy. There is a two-year period in which to "fine tune” and "modify” that document. Armey has urged Thompson to use that time to tilt the regulation toward actual privacy.

On top of this, Armey suspects that career bureaucrats or Clinton holdovers are continuing to ignore Congress’s effort to block the medical ID number.

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Never mind that you probably don't want one. A Zogby poll just out on Monday shows nearly two-thirds of voters take a dim view of government maintaining computerized medical records on all Americans. And never mind that since 1998, federal law has prohibited the...
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2001-00-15
Tuesday, 15 May 2001 12:00 AM
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