I was asked to do some research into why doctors offices are frequently requiring a photo ID be presented before appointments. The official reason being cited seemed to revolve around preventing health insurance fraud, or identity theft to receive healthcare under another person’s name–which accounts for 1-3% of all identity theft. But once you start reading into the systems set up by the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act it becomes clear that the information taken from your ID at the doctors’ office is being entered into a database which the Department of Homeland Security has access to, for the official purpose of performing duties necessary to prevent terrorism. The American Health Information Management Association summarized the effects the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act, and Freedom of Information Act would have on healthcare.
The Homeland Security Act provides the secretary of Homeland Security with the authority to direct and control investigations that require access to information needed to investigate and prevent terrorism.3 This authority can be interpreted to include requests for PHI of any type without the express authorization of the patient or legal guardian. It further states that PHI is protected from unauthorized disclosure and is to be handled and used only for the performance of official duties.4 Therefore, redisclosure would be restricted to those who need to know the information to perform their jobs, which is compatible with the HIPAA privacy rule.
PHI stands for Protected Health Information, which means Homeland Security can look into your health records if they are investigating a crime, or “perform[ing] their jobs”. Along with the Homeland Security Act a privacy office was implemented to address instances where DHS officials “need” to look at our health records, and deal with violations of privacy. The idea is that this office would prevent unauthorized DHS personnel from accessing unauthorized information. Some reports however suggest that the information given at the doctor’s office, including the photo ID, are stored in a searchable DHS database with little privacy protection.
The implementation of the Patriotic Act figures into these privacy concerns by “dramatically reducing restrictions pertaining to law enforcement requests to search telephone records, e-mail communication, and health records”. Under the act the Director of the FBI (or a designee) maybe request an order to receive “tangible things” which “may include PHI protected under HIPAA”. It seems that under the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, due process would be required to search a person’s papers and information, yet the Patriot Act appears to violate those requirements. The Patriotic Act claims there are civil liabilities if information is not accessed properly. Yet language in the bill also clears the person producing the information (perhaps in your doctor’s office) of any wrongdoing, because they are complying with the Patriot Act.
So just know that when you are showing your ID at the doctor’s office, they are most likely scanning it, and storing the information in a database that can be accessed by the Department of Homeland Security. Couple this with the impending implementation of Obamacare, and we have a bureaucratic mess of police state and government healthcare. It should concern us that the government has access to this type of information about innocent individuals without having to go through the proper channels of due process, as prescribed by the Constitution.