Health Care and Political Hypocrisy About Privacy

by | Jun 19, 2006

In response to the National Security Agency’s acquisition of private telephone call databases, a lot of politicians — even those who were given frequent briefings about the program for more than four years — claim to be deeply shocked about this government intrusion into our private lives. The issue is a serious one, and we […]

In response to the National Security Agency’s acquisition of private telephone call databases, a lot of politicians — even those who were given frequent briefings about the program for more than four years — claim to be deeply shocked about this government intrusion into our private lives.

The issue is a serious one, and we should all be concerned about any government gathering of personal information. We should also be concerned about those who care about privacy when it is related only to national security. Are they disturbed by the fact that the Internal Revenue Service captures every detail about our employment, income, investments, housing, and business activity for the purpose of collecting taxes from us? Hardly. When it comes to government tax collection, these politicians don’t think you have the right to any privacy at all. What if you have to provide records of all of your telephone calls to claim a business expense? These selective libertarians have no problem with that.

Nor are these politicians disturbed about the government monitoring every detail of our medical records in a computer database–with the excuse of providing us with health care. The government is now providing about half of the health care in the United States. Anything that the government provides, it tends to micro-manage. There is no detail of your physical condition in such a system that the government does not want to know. A government that pays–with tax dollars–for your health care will always act as if it owns your body. This extends beyond government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to the entire system.

The government needs income to pay for the legitimate functions of government (such as national security). But politicians have created a 19 million-word tax code, the supposed necessity of which makes the expectation of a private life unreasonable–as far as the Internal Revenue Service is concerned.

Government regulation of private insurance is a violation of both privacy and free choice. Increasing the trend beyond mandating what conditions must be covered is the more recent mandate of an individual’s purchase of insurance. The obvious efficiencies of computerized health records are now being used as an excuse to hand over information on all private care to the government. George Bush thinks that the way to protect the privacy of your health care information is to computerize it in databases under government control. Conservatives such as Newt Gingrich think that is a great idea. So do liberals like Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy. Those who are horrified (perhaps understandably) by the government violating your privacy in the name of protecting you from terrorists apparently have no problem violating your privacy when you need health care.

The City of New York now requires the results of all blood testing of diabetics to be reported to the Health Department. Whether your blood is taken in a public hospital or your own doctor’s office, the City of New York wants to know how your blood sugar is doing. That is unprecedented for a non-contagious disease. But it helps us understand that the concept of privacy in medicine and all other aspects of life is incompatible with the Nanny State.

Politicians who tell us that they will not protect us from terrorists due to privacy concerns should make that case as clearly as they can based on a defense of the American idea of the primacy of individual rights and liberties. It will be increasingly difficult to do so if they do not lift a finger to protect us from the daily imposition of force by our own government.

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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