The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), charged with implementing ObamaCare, announced last week that it will require health care providers to include their patients’ “social and behavioral” data through Electronic Health Records (EHR) and link patients’ health records to public health departments.
According to a report in the Washington Free Beacon, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is commissioning the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study how best to include Americans’ “social and behavioral” data in the electronic health record reporting for the stated purpose of improving health care.
The statement of work (SOW) related to the contract reads:
Increasing EHR adoption has the potential to improve health and health care quality. Parallel advances in analytic tools applied to such records are fueling new approaches to discovering determinants of population health.
The project intends to identify “core data standards for behavioral and social determinants of health to be included in EHRs.”
However, health care experts say the data-mining raises further concerns about the privacy of Americans’ personal health information in addition to current worries that the ObamaCare “data hub” will be abused by bureaucrats and vulnerable to identity theft.
“This sounds like an example of the federal government further intruding on the practice of medicine,” said Chris Jacobs, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. “It’s including more pay for performance requirements on physicians to collect all sorts of data in order to get government reimbursements.”
The Washington Free Beacon notes that in 2009, President Obama’s “stimulus” bill gave CMS the authority to pay hospitals and doctors that made the switch to electronic health records to “encourage widespread EHR adoption.”
In 2011 or 2012, health care professionals who participated in the stimulus-funded program received up to $44,000 for using EHRs for Medicare and $63,750 for Medicaid over five and six years, respectively.
Despite the fact that CMS stated the EHR program was “totally voluntary,” the agency will punish health professionals who are not using EHRs by 2015 by reducing their Medicare and Medicaid fees by one percent each year.
According to Jacobs, the government’s “pay for conformance” culture in health care tells doctors “what they have to do and how they have to do it in order to receive government reimbursement.”
CMS issued a “sole source” contract for the data-mining project to the NAS reportedly because of “its caliber and expertise in the medical profession,” a CMS spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon. Working with the Institute of Medicine, a panel is already drafting recommendations for the collection of Americans’ social and behavioral data.
Though the National Academy of Sciences, which includes its “health arm,” the Institute of Medicine (IOM), describes itself as a “private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars,” its website also indicates that its charter “commits the Academy to provide scientific advice to the government ‘whenever called upon’ by any government department.”
The IOM has provided HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with many recommendations that have lent “medical cover” to ObamaCare’s provisions, even those concerned with taxing Americans to pay for a broader expanse of healthcare coverage.
For example, in April of 2012, the IOM issued a report that promoted a new tax on medical care to pay for improvements to public health services in the country. The report urged the government to spend more on preventive healthcare strategies by levying new taxes on sugary drinks, estates, and life insurance policies in order to fund anti-smoking, vaccination programs, chronic disease, and mental health screenings for every American.
Similarly, in August of 2011, the Obama administration approved a recommendation from IOM that ObamaCare guarantee full overage for birth control, including the “morning after” pill. Regarding the IOM report that recommended these additional mandates, Sebelius said, “I want to thank the Institute of Medicine for providing this important report recommending additional preventive services for women’s health and well-being. This report is historic.”
The recommendation eventually became the HHS mandate which requires most employers to provide free contraception, sterilization procedures, and abortifacients to their workers through health insurance plans.
The IOM, which calls itself “independent,” has also published reports that recommend legal restrictions and regulations to help combat obesity, a national surveillance system to monitor cardiovascular and chronic lung disease, and the incorporation of mandated dental care into ObamaCare.
Following the IOM’s recommendation of full birth control coverage in ObamaCare, one dissenting member of the IOM panel of experts, Dr. Anthony Lo Sasso of the University of Illinois, asserted that the decisions and recommendations of the IOM were made based on politics, rather than science.
Lo Sasso said:
The view of this dissent is that the committee process for evaluation of the evidence lacked transparency and was largely subject to the preferences of the committee’s composition. Troublingly, the process tended to result in a mix of objective and subjective determinations filtered through a lens of advocacy.
More recently, Dr. Judith Salerno, the new president of the Komen Foundation, now closely allied with Planned Parenthood, served as chief executive and chief operating officer of IOM.
In addition, in 2011, Arland Nichols, national director of Human Life International – America, the U.S. branch of the global pro-life organization, wrote:
The decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to mandate coverage of contraception and sterilization is troubling. From unjust discrimination against those who find sterilization or contraception to be morally offensive, to the increasing health costs that this Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendation will bring, the ramifications of the HHS guideline are far-reaching. Perhaps most startling, however, is the way that the HHS, along with the IOM, has blatantly misled the nation. With the support of inadequate research, these organizations have foisted a policy upon the country that has little to do with protecting the health of the population. Instead, by gathering a committee of aggressively pro-choice advocates, and by hiding behind a shroud of purported scientific objectivity, they have pushed a “health” program that actually furthers a radical political agenda. Such partisanship is not shocking, of course, and would warrant little comment if the effects were less universal or severe.