Obamacare's grab for "unpredecented" power: why the RNC was right.

Politico (here and here) and Plum Line (here) have gone after the RNC for a fundraising mail “survey” that asked donors how they felt about the possibility “that the government could use voter registration to determine a person’s political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system.”

Though the specific claim might be a bit too wildly speculative (the RNC has acknowledged it was “inartfully worded”), there is an underlying point worth serious consideration.  While there are few if any privacy protections in the Democrats’ health care bill, it does give government increased access to a lot of personal, private information about Americans.  There’s a section of the bill that will give the government “unprecedented” power to collect data about Americans’ personal bank accounts, tax return data, and even what kind of care you are receiving, whether you’re on the government-run “public option” or private insurance. 

So perhaps the RNC went too far, but they have a good point – there may be nothing in the bill enabling the government to use partisan affiliation to ration care, but there’s nothing disabling the government from doing so either.  What’s to say the new “Comparative Effectiveness Research Commission” established by the bill doesn’t discover that Republicans are less responsive to certain expensive but potentially life-saving care than Democrats are.  What would stop the Commission from then suggesting that it’s not worth investing our health care dollars on providing that care to Republicans?  Right now, there isn’t anything to stop it.

In case you need it, some background information on the case follows:


How Many Bureaucrats Will Be Able To Access Your Records? “Over at the Institute for Policy Innovation (a free-market think tank and presumably no fan of Obamacare), Tom Giovanetti argues that: ‘How many thousands of federal employees will have access to your records? The privacy of your health records will be only as good as the most nosy, most dishonest and most malcontented federal employee…. So say good-bye to privacy from the federal government. It was fun while it lasted for 233 years.’” (Declan McCullagh, “Democratic Health Care Bill Divulges IRS Tax Data,” CBS News’ “Taking Liberties” Blog, 8/26/09)


Former Labor Department Chief Economist Says House Bill Creates “Unprecedented” Data Collection Powers Into Personal Banking Information. “According to section 163, the standards will ‘enable the real-time (or near real-time) determination of an individual’s financial responsibility at the point of service . . . ‘ In addition, they will ‘enable electronic funds transfers, in order to allow automated reconciliation with related health care payment and remittance advice.’ What is envisioned is a ‘machine-readable health plan beneficiary card’ that, in addition to information about a person’s medical history, will contain checking-account or credit-card information, so as to allow electronic payments and, if a person is lucky, occasional remittances. Since under the proposed legislation everyone would be required to have health insurance, all Americans would have to provide this information.  The required collection of such data is unprecedented. At no other time has the government sought to collect this type of financial information from everyone in America.” (Diana Furchtgott-Roth, “Turning Uncle Sam Into Peeping Tom,” National Review Online, 8/20/09)


Dems Bill Will Force The IRS To Provide Taxpayer Identity Information To The Health Choices Commissioner. “Section 431(a) of the bill says that the IRS must divulge taxpayer identity information, including the filing status, the modified adjusted gross income, the number of dependents, and ‘other information as is prescribed by’ regulation. That information will be provided to the new Health Choices Commissioner and state health programs and used to determine who qualifies for ‘affordability credits.’ Section 245(b)(2)(A) says the IRS must divulge tax return details — there’s no specified limit on what’s available or unavailable — to the Health Choices Commissioner. The purpose, again, is to verify ‘affordability credits.’” (Declan McCullagh, “Democratic Health Care Bill Divulges IRS Tax Data,” CBS News’ “Taking Liberties” Blog, 8/26/09)

Dems Bill Will Allow The Social Security Administration To Obtain Tax Data As Well. “Section 1801(a) says that the Social Security Administration can obtain tax return data on anyone who may be eligible for a ‘low-income prescription drug subsidy’ but has not applied for it.” (Declan McCullagh, “Democratic Health Care Bill Divulges IRS Tax Data,” CBS News’ “Taking Liberties” Blog, 8/26/09)

Where Should The Privacy Line Be Drawn With Government-Run Health Care?  “A better candidate for a future privacy crisis is the so-called stimulus bill enacted with limited debate early this year. It mandated the ‘utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014,’ but included only limited privacy protections. … If we’re going to have such significant additional government intrusion into our health care system, we will have to draw the privacy line somewhere.” (Declan McCullagh, “Democratic Health Care Bill Divulges IRS Tax Data,” CBS News’ “Taking Liberties” Blog, 8/26/09)


Obama Supports Comparative Effectiveness Research. “To help doctors and patients decide, President Obama has dedicated $1.1 billion in the economic stimulus package for federal agencies to oversee studies on the merits of competing medical treatments. The approach, known as comparative effectiveness research, is aimed at finding the best treatments at the best prices.” (Ceci Connolly, “Comparison Shopping For Medicine,” The Washington Post, 3/17/09)

Democrats’ Health Care Bill, Pages 501-524, Section 1401, Creates “Comparative Effectiveness Research Commission” To Look At “Outcomes, Effectiveness And Appropriateness Of Health Care Services And Procedures.” (H.R. 3200, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act,” Introduced 7/14/09)

Democrat Plan For “Comparative Effectiveness Research” Could Lead To Government Boards Deciding What Treatments Would Or Wouldn’t Be Funded. “Skeptics, however, say Obama’s decision to invest heavily in such research will lead to European-style rationing in which patients are denied lifesaving therapies to save money. It also has alarmed some drug companies and medical device manufacturers, which fear that a system of winners and losers is bound to reduce their bottom lines.” (Ceci Connolly, “Comparison Shopping For Medicine,” The Washington Post, 3/17/09)