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Trust Me, I've From the Government. Now Give Me Your Private Health Information

Last week 13 attorneys general sent a letterto Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing privacy concerns over the Affordable Care Act. 

Their specific concern is the enrollment procedures for the health insurance exchanges (HIX) being planned under the law. The AGs told the Secretary that the people who take your personal health information when you enroll in an HIX aren’t adequately trained in how to handle it.

I should add that the 13 AGs represent states that have declined to establish their own state exchanges.

Last month DHHS released a final rule requiring so-called navigatorsto have at least 30 hours of training in handling your private information. But the problem, say the AGs, is that DHHS isn’t requiring background or criminal checks on the people who handle your most private information. 

In fact, the standards for people who sell you health insurance are tougher than the security standards for these navigators, according to the complaint. The AGs point out that on a state level these health insurance sellers and brokers, unlike the "navigators" who handle the same private information, are subject to strict exam-based licensing. 

The DHHS response? The navigators have been trained enough and that’s that.

Call me crazy, but this strikes me as a cavalier response to the AGs.  I think the screws on our personal privacy are getting a little loose. Where I live, even Little League® coaches have to undergo criminal background checks. Teachers have to undergo three security clearances—a sex offender registry check, a state police background check and an FBI fingerprint check. All to pass out the white paste and crayons.

Why shouldn’t I know that that the person who is looking at my most intimate personal information—my health—isn’t a criminal who is going to sell my information? It’s pretty simple. I know that sometimes this privacy thing gets out of hand. It’s a relative thing. I don’t really care who knows what movie I took in last Friday night at the multiplex. But I might care a lot about who knows my diagnosis following a college weekend in Tijuana 20 years ago.

I think most people would agree that we need to update how we delivery and pay for healthcare. But the polls have consistently shown consumer opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Blowing off legal concerns about security is a bad way to convince already skeptical consumers that the ACA is will be a change for the better.