Prescription Data Used To Assess Consumers
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post
Posted: August 17th, 2008
Health and life insurance companies have access to a powerful new tool for evaluating whether to cover individual consumers: a health "credit report" drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans. Collecting and analyzing personal health information in commercial databases is a fledgling industry, but one poised to take off as the nation enters the age of electronic medical records. Some insurers have already begun testing systems that tap into not only prescription drug information, but also data about patients held by clinical and pathological laboratories. Privacy and consumer advocates fear [the trend] it is taking place largely outside the scrutiny of federal health regulators and lawmakers. The practice also illustrates how electronic data gathered for one purpose can be used and marketed for another -- often without consumers' knowledge, privacy advocates say. And they argue that although consumers sign consent forms, they effectively have to authorize the data release if they want insurance. "As health care moves into the digital age, there are more and more companies holding vast amounts of patients' health information," said Joy Pritts, research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "Most people don't even know these [companies] exist. Unfortunately the federal health privacy rule does not cover many of them." Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "We've got to stop these practices before the marketplace is fully developed and patients lose all control over their medical information."
Note: For lots more on increasing threats to privacy from reliable sources, click here.