Is somebody sneaking around your HIPAA privacy rights?
I know I am rather like Don Quixote tilting at windmills when I am talking about privacy but it is still important to me. And should be to you!
Let’s assume you installed security measures to stop Chinese hackers on your computer system, you use passwords, you lock your house and car, never leave your purse on your shopping cart, and do not give your social security number to strangers. So that should make you really annoyed but pretty safe right?
No – not really! Do you use any prescription medications?
Data mining companies can now access the digital medical records and obtain your medication history. This can be done without your knowledge or consent. But why is that important?
We work with companies who want to move to self insured plans. Normally we have to collect employee medical information to determine the risk and if they should consider this approach. We are careful to protect any and all data we collect and none of it is ever shown to the employer. One insurance company recently told us they will issue a proposal based only on the census information. When I asked how they determine rates and risk funding without medical information they told me they now just access the national prescription drug data base and get all they need. I have always known drug use patterns are a better predictor of future risk than past claims history. What I did not know was that pretty much anybody can now access that data.
If that does not concern you it should. With just your name and date of birth a company can collect all of your prescription information and then “assume” your overall health status. They then can retain that information and if you show up at some other employer they can update it and reuse the information. All of this is without you ever knowing or approving of it.
In most cases this may not be a “BIG DEAL” but I am sure it will be when some enterprising researcher looks up a politicians drug use records and discloses it during an election. More close to home will be when employee search firms start adding that information to your background. Would taking a few anxiety pills affect a hiring decision? Will they hire you if your child takes a medication indicating a potential organ transplant? Does that make this a bigger deal for you?
Somebody will quickly tell me HIPAA protects us all from this sort of thing. And perhaps Santa Clause and the Tooth fairy will watch over you as well.
Any questions, give us a call, 602-381-9900.