The age of the internet has always had within it the seeds of corporate abuse of privacy and, not surprising, the first of the industries to take full advantage of what it offers are health insurance and life insurance corpo's. There is a new data "tool" that willo make it quick, easy, and cheap for insurance companies to disallow a potential client for "pre-existing conditions" or other excuses.
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. While lawmakers debate how best to oversee the shift to computerized 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.
Traditionally, insurance companies have judged an applicant's risk by gathering medical records from physicians' offices. But the new tools offer the advantage of being "electronic, fast and cheap," said Mark Franzen, managing director of Milliman IntelliScript, which provides consumers' personal drug profiles to insurers.
They do what for a living??
Yeah. Basically, they provide private information to an adversary for a price but it's all legal because the insurance companies make you sign a permission slip when you apply for coverage. Of course, if you don't give them permission to raid your private medical history, your application will be automatically denied so it isn't exactly uncoerced permission.
But there's nothing new here, really, is there? Haven't we been forced to turn over our medical records to insurance companies for years?
Well, yeah, but there's a tiny little difference here, hardly worth mentioning.
[T]he 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 organizations exist. Unfortunately the federal health privacy rule does not cover many of them. . . . The lack of transparency with how all of this works is disturbing."
"Disturbing" ain't the word. It's bloody scary. These people are less trustworthy than your average bank robber. They're infamous for abusing information for insidious purposes, and anybody who thinks they won't abuse this is living in a DreamWorld.