HIPAA And Other Assaults Upon Our Civil Liberties
HIPAA And Other Assaults Upon Our Civil Liberties
By Norma Sherry
If you or a loved one has been in the hospital or to your doctor lately, undoubtedly, you have become familiar with the new HIPAA regulations. The regulations that disallow nurses to answer even the simplest of queries, such as, "can you tell me what room my husband is in?" Apparently, we have become so paranoid, so protective of our privacy, that we have legislated secrecy gone amuck.
HIPAA's way was paved when Congress adopted a new set of rules in 1996 that set the stage for some of the most sweeping changes in health care since the passage of the Medicare Acts. In part, these changes included the protection of patient identifiable data including, but not limited to, the patient's name, their address, phone number, their sex, date of birth, or their diagnosis. No one, not even a family member is excluded from these restrictions unless otherwise cleared by the patient - usually in writing.
If you are a first-time patient with a new doctor and that doctor writes you a prescription, in which you would prefer be called in to your pharmacy - guess what? The doctor will respectfully decline. Not because he or she is being mean, but because their hands have been dutifully tied by HIPAA. If you're a new patient, you must have a written script. Call-in scripts are not permitted. Once you have an ongoing physician/patient relationship this no longer holds true. The reasoning behind this is befuddling.
As incongruous, as it may seem, on one hand, we seem willing to permit such undue protection of our privacy, and yet, on the other hand, we appear to be willing to allow the perverse and continuing assault upon our precious civil liberties.
Even as I write this, our president aired commercials and made speeches on the importance of preserving the USA Patriot Act. Apparently, he was very effective because the USA Patriot Act, that same law that made citizens the object of national concern, has an excellent chance of being re-upped in Congress. President Bush has used the anniversary of the deadly attack on September 11th to put his policy forth to the citizenry. He and his spokespeople use the same scare tactics and threatening rhetoric to convince the gullible, the misinformed, the unread public, that in order to fight terrorism we all have to be willing to give up some of our rights. What he neglects to say is that according to President Bush, we the people no longer have inalienable rights. Furthermore, if he has anything to do with it, we never will again.
In a speech to the FBI, in Quantico, Virginia, President Bush recently said, "Under current federal law, there are unreasonable obstacles to investigating and prosecuting terrorism." He recommended the need to allow authorities in terrorist investigations to issue subpoenas without going to judges or grand juries, to make it easier to hold terrorism suspects without bail, and to add more death penalty statutes. The problem with this folks is the ease in which any of us could be considered an object of terrorist investigation. You may think that's a silly and a "liberal" point of view, but we now have a glut of proof that supports that contention. All one needs to do is read, but you'll have to go beyond the bought and paid for press. Try doing a search online. You may be regretfully informed.
You may remember last February through August, John Ashcroft made a whirlwind tour of the United States touting the importance and need of the US Patriot Act. His job and his intent were to prepare the public for tougher new laws assaulting our civil liberties. Eloquently he proclaimed the ongoing fear and threat to America and its citizens. For all intents and purposes, he fulfilled his role well. The citizens that blindly back this president and his cabinet no matter what applauded loudly and in so doing voiced their undying support. Detractors and voices of citizens on the other side of that preverbal coin were held in abeyance, far from view and further from being heard. But this is the new America. The America in only those who agree are seen and heard. Scary and frightening as this may seem to many of you, the consequences of our voices not being heard or seen by our fellow Americans has the potential of changing America in ways we never believed possible.
Unabashedly, our president and many from both sides of the congressional fence tout the horrors of 911 and remind us of the "evil doers" that wish to destroy our way of life. This administration uses this national assault to bolster its deeds and misdeeds in the name of security. Wide-eyed and clear-throated we were told in no uncertain terms of the proof that Iraq had weapons of mass-destruction. Even now in the face of the truth, President Bush said on July 9th to a throng of supporters that we just haven't found the WMD yet. Besides, he said, we know that Saddam Hussein had the capability to make WMD. He neglects to state he knows this because we, the United States government, sold him the goods that would have enabled him to do so. But, that's not important now, is it?
Just weeks after 911 President Bush succeeded in getting the USA Patriot Act signed into law. It wasn't until many months later we learned that not a single senator or congressman read the Act before signing it into law. Afterwards, many of their voices, including ultra-conservative leaders, Bob Barr and Dick Armey, loudly proclaimed their regret in doing so. Since then we heard Senator John Conyers, a strong distracter of the actions of this administration, state that we are foolish if we think our representatives read anything that comes their way. It's impossible he says, otherwise they'd get nothing done. Perhaps, prudence would be the greater part of valor. How better served might we be if our elected officials actually read all the pertinent documents before they voted on enacting law that would affect their constituency: us.
Perhaps, my fellow Americans, it is time that we the people send a loud and resounding message to all of our current representatives. I wonder what we might achieve if we replaced the entire lot of them with accountable representation? As we all know, the days are growing shorter before we are faced with the opportunity to make our voices heard. We need to go into that booth armed with knowledge, not rhetoric. It is time for each and every one of us to be responsible citizens and for each of us to do the right thing and vote our conscience, intelligently.
© Norma Sherry 2004
Norma Sherry is co-founder of TogetherForeverChanging.org, an organization devoted to educating, stimulating, and igniting personal responsibility particularly with regards to our diminishing civil liberties. She is also an award-winning writer/producer and host of television program, The Norma Sherry Show, on WQXT-TV, Florida.
Email Norma: firstname.lastname@example.org