On Friday morning, CNN anchor Carol Costello challenged Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to substantiate her claim that HealthCare.gov will endanger Americans’ medical privacy. The host pushed the Congresswoman to specify which medical details enrollees would have to turn over to the federal government, causing Blackburn to become visibly uncomfortable and unsure as she strung together various buzzwords about privacy.Costello asks Blackburn what specific website requirements could be violations of the law, and what information enrollees have to divulge that could even be considered so private as to be worth worrying about. Blackburn proceeds to babble incoherently without answering these very simple questions.
The exchange originated from a question Blackburn herself leveled at the primary contractors responsible for HealthCare.gov during a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday. Blackburn asked the witnesses why some of their employees had access to “the database servers storing the enrolling information” and suggested that they were in violation of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the law that guarantees “federal protections for individually identifiable health information held by covered entities and their business associates and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information.”
As Washington & Lee Law Professor Timothy S. Jost explained to ThinkProgress in an email, “HIPAA only applies to health care providers, clearinghouses (and this is a narrowly defined term) health plans, and their business associates.” “Even so, access is available to data without consent for health care operations, which this would be.” Deven McGraw, of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, agreed, adding, “It does not violate HIPAA – it’s not even covered by HIPAA.”Republicans want to frighten people away from using the exchanges. They want to prevent people from even finding out if they can use the exchanges to get better health insurance deals. The reasons they provide are so dishonest and/or flat out stupid that even they can't explain them.