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News of the Day ... In Perspective

12/23/2006

Patients warned about insurer-controlled “personal” health records

America’s leading insurers, American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), recently announced a plan to provide free personal health records (PHRs) to their 200 million enrollees. Patient Privacy Rights denounced it as a plan that would benefit insurers, not patients.

The PHRs would be pre-populated with information based on insurance claims, stated Patient Privacy Rights, and then patients and providers would be encouraged to add information.

Research has shown that 65% of Americans will not give sensitive information to insurance plans; 53% are concerned about health plans gaining access to their electronic medical records; and 59% do not trust their health insurers. In addition, 77% of Americans fear that data in their electronic medical records will be used for other purposes such as marketing, and 82% object to insurance companies gaining access to data without permission.

From these so-called PHRs, insurers will gain a lucrative data base that they control completely, unconstrained by federal or state laws concerning its use.

“By giving plan enrollees a PHR and asking them to fill in the blanks, we’re basically being asked to spy on ourselves for the financial benefit of the insurance industry,” stated founder and chairman Deborah Peel, M.D.

Although electronic medical records are basically a good idea, Patient Privacy Rights strongly advises Americans not to participate in any PHR data bases unless Congress passes a law saying that patients own their data and have the right to control access to it (Press Release 12/21/06).

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