Originally published February 5 2015
Feds to create national data warehouse to record disease details on Obamacare enrollees
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) When Democrats and President Obama were out "selling" the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, before they enacted it, do you recall anyone telling you that a provision of the law called for the construction of a massive government database that would contain the medical information of all Americans?
Actually, there were a few voices back then, but many news outlets were repeating warnings in the spring and summer of 2013, though they were dismissed as "crazy" by some in the media.
Well, it's official: The Department of Health and Human Services is searching for vendors to help operate its "National Data Warehouse," which will be a database designed for "capturing, aggregating, and analyzing information" related to beneficiary and customer experiences with Medicare and the federal Obamacare marketplaces.
As reported by The Weekly Standard:
Although the database primarily consists of quality control metrics related to individuals' interactions with customer service, potential contractors are to "[d]emonstrate ... experience with scalability and security in protecting data and information with customer, person-sensitive information including Personal Health Information and Personally Identifiable information (personal health records, etc.)."
Vendors are also instructed that one of the requirements of a possible future contract would be "[e]nsuring that all products developed and delivered adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance standards."
"Potential for abuse is staggering"
For many years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) -- the division of HHS that is responsible for Medicare and now Obamacare as well -- has maintained a "national data warehouse" (NDW) in relation to the 1-800-MEDICARE helpline. With the passage of Obamacare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) and resultant establishment of the Marketplaces, there has been an expansion in the scope of the NDW.
CMS, in its Federal Business Opportunities notice, explains:
The NDW performs a significant role with oversight and monitoring functions under the Virtual Call Center Strategy (VCS) initiative and Medicare Reform legislation. The NDW acts as the central repository for capturing, aggregating, and analyzing information related to the beneficiary experience with Medicare and the consumer experience with Marketplaces. The NDW also serves as a foundation for operational and management reporting to support improved decision-making, business practices, and services to callers.
According The Weekly Standard, data slated for collection in the NDW "includes information for CMS' Virtual Contact Center operations including, but not necessarily limited to" items such as "Workforce management data," "Quality monitoring," "Medicare disenrollments," "Beneficiary satisfaction surveys" and "Web Chat metrics."
But as in past government databases, the danger that they will be expanded -- in this case, to include all sorts of information about Americans' personal medical histories -- is very real.
As researchers Stephen Parente, a finance professor at the University of Minnesota, and Paul Howard, director of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Medical Progress, warned in 2012, any database tied to Obamacare would result in a nightmare for privacy:
By mid-December, the federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic. If you think identity theft is a problem now, wait until Uncle Sam serves up critical information on 300 million American citizens on a platter.
The year privacy finally died
They went on to note that, as the date approaches for full implementation of the Obamacare law, information about applicants and their families who apply via the various state and federal health insurance exchanges will be collected from other databases -- primarily from the IRS and the Treasury Department, but also from the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and Social Security.
"The data gathering is sensible, in the abstract. Similar information is collected when you apply for a mortgage," the researchers warned. "But when the constantly updated information is combined in a central data hub, the potential for abuse is staggering. For one thing, the hub will have all the details needed to steal identities and fraudulently access credit."
Welcome to America 2015, the year privacy finally died in America.
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