(Samantha Stone) – Physicians, citizen groups, and many states are lining up to challenge the constitutionality of a federal mandate to purchase health insurance. The primary claim is that the federal government has no authority to force Americans to purchase a product.
A Mississippi attorney has jumped in with a unique claim — the mandate is a violation of the same right to medical privacy that underlies the right to abortion and birth control. (Roe v. Wade and Griswold v. Connecticut.)
Attorney K. Douglas (Doug) Lee, who describes himself as a Christian and a conservative, says requiring Americans to buy health insurance will “require them to share private and personal information” with the company that writes the policy, and that there’s a significant body of law to support his assertion that it’s unconstitutional.
Here’s more from the complaint: “… by requiring Plaintiffs to abide by the Act’s individual mandate, Congress is also compelling Plaintiffs to fully disclose past medical conditions, habits and behaviors. Not only will the insurer be privy to all past medical information, Congress’s individual mandate will, by necessity, allow the compelled insurer access to Plaintiffs’ present and future medical information of a confidential nature… Plaintiffs should not be forced to disclose the most intimate details of their past, present and future medical information.”
The Reasonable Reporter, in her capacity as co-host of a radio program focused entirely on privacy and cybersecurity, finds this intriguing.
True enough that individual privacy is threatened by the health care reform. One of health reform’s underpinnings that long predates the current congress and President Obama is an invasive scheme to digitize and database the medical records of every American, and make those records available for a variety of novel official uses. Recall the story published last year that imagined local health officials mashing up real-time cell phone tracking data with citywide flu diagnoses by neighborhood, in order to alert citizens to the number of people in their immediate vicinity – right this minute – who might be carriers.
Leaving aside whether this scenario would create a healthier society, or whether it makes the hair on your neck stand up, it’s difficult to find a federal database that hasn’t been given poor marks for security by the federal government’s own auditors at the GAO. There is, furthermore, no shortage of examples where citizen data has been lost, stolen, sold or otherwise mishandled at government agencies from school districts to state payroll offices, courts of law and county health departments. This leads to is slim hopes of medical privacy for anyone once electronic medical records are in place, even if they just sit there unused.
But back to the constitutional objection. Below is an audio interview with Doug Lee, whose clients are petitioners in the suit invoking medical privacy. That’s just one of the elements of the complaint, by the way. It’s long, and it overlaps in many ways with others that have been announced. Medical privacy language is found in paragraph 73.
(Ms. Stone writes and publishes The Reasonable Reporter blog on Nevada politics and public policy)