Congressman Denny Rehberg, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services and Education, today demanded answers from Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about reported efforts to establish a government database of private health care information for reinsurance and risk adjustment programs. In his letter, Rehberg warns that such plans would be a violation of the privacy rights Americans expect and deserve.
"Private medical records are among the most sensitive personal information there is," said Rehberg. "The federal government has a pretty terrible track record when it comes to safeguarding information. Folks in Montana and around the country are going to be as angry as a yellow jacket in a dust devil at the idea that faceless government bureaucrats are trying to collect their medical information. This data should remain between a patient and his or her doctor. There's just no excuse for this government overreach, and I'm going to do everything I can to stop it."
Rehberg's letter comes in response to reports that HHS has already taken steps to build a database. Specifically that a third-party contractor may have been commissioned and that this contractor may have already taken steps to get personal health care data from an insurance claims database.
In his letter, Rehberg asks Secretary Sebelius to respond to these claims, pointing out that if they are indeed true they "represent an egregious violation of the privacy rights that the American public rightfully demands."
"The more we learn about what President Obama's health law does, the worse it gets," said Rehberg, who was the only member of Montana's delegation who voted against it. "It's time to repeal this dangerous law and replace it with true health care reform that lowers the cost of health care while increasing access."
Rehberg's full letter is below:
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
I am writing to express serious concerns about reports that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) is moving forward with regulations to establish a government database of private health care information for reinsurance and risk adjustment programs.
Specifically, I have been told that HHS has already procured a contractor to build a database and that this contractor has already taken steps to acquire personal health care data from a large claims database. I would like to know if these reports are, in fact, true. If so, it would represent an egregious violation of the privacy rights that the American public rightfully demands.
As Chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Subcommittee, I have denied funding for the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight as well as implementation of the broader Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) until legal challenges are complete. It is irresponsible for the Department to move forward with a policy that has such a negative impact on individual privacy rights under any circumstances, let alone in light of an incomplete Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 appropriations process.
Pursuant to Rules X and XI of the House of Representatives, I ask that you answer the following questions in a timely manner:
1. What authority does PPACA give HHS to develop a database of private health care records?
2. For what purpose does HHS need these records?
3. How does HHS plan to safeguard the data?
4. Is HHS working with a contractor to develop a database? If so, who is that contractor and what is the cost?
5. Has HHS or any contractor already moved forward with purchasing claims data to establish a database? If so, from whom did they purchase the data and for what purpose?
6. What efforts have been made to allow for public input in an effort to determine whether or not Americans support having their private medical records assessed by government bureaucrats?
I appreciate a timely response to these questions.