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Uncle Sam Snooping Through Your Medical Records?

Uncle Sam Snooping Through Your Medical Records?

Most Americans were outraged to learn that, under the guise of fighting terrorism, the FBI and other law enforcement officials could view library records without a persons knowledge or consent.  Yet how many of you know that the government, under the same guise, can access your conversations with a counselor or other mental health records without your knowledge or consent?  They can, and this power is just one the Obama administration is lobbying to keep.

With the Senate Judiciary Committee in the “mark up” period of the Patriot Act largely overshadowed by the health insurance reform debate few Americans have had the chance to take a good, hard look at the bill, let alone the proposed changes.  But coincidentally, the two issues are actually related.  Section 215 authorizes the compulsory disclosure of “business records”, and a growing number of Americans are using their insurance benefits for mental health treatments, including psychotherapy.  That is not to suggest, however, anything close to parity in terms of health insurance coverage for mental health care because we are a long way from parity.  But that is the topic of a different post.  Still, for those lucky enough to have mental health care provided by insurance, reimbursement requires a clinical diagnosis of mental illness.  Section 215 can be used to access personal information, not from the clinician, but from the insurance companies, unbeknownst to either practitioner or patient. 

Section 215 requires no proof of criminal activity before records are accessed and during hearings on the legislation FBI officials acknowledged approximately 2 of every 200 cases involving Section 215 involved cases of suspected terrorism.  The vast majority of document requests in what can only be described simply as governmental data mining involved alleged drug and tax fraud cases.

Thankfully Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) are pressing Attorney General Eric Holder for some answers as to just what the government is doing with all this information collected.  Senator Feingold’s JUSTICE Act would create strong oversight over the use of Section 215 and other provisions related to privacy rights.  We’ve seen what eight years of unfettered surveillance power has brought this country–we are no safer but we are more exposed.

In our fight to defend “freedom” we’ve resigned to the taking of our own.  Ask yourself the following: do you know if the government has searched your home?  Do you know if the government has searched your medical records?  Is this the kind of country you want to live in?  If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then contact your representatives and urge them to support the JUSTICE Act and restore privacy protections for all Americans.

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photo courtesy of BLW Photography via Flickr

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23 comments

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1:46PM PDT on Sep 11, 2010

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!! LAW INFORCEMENT NEEDS TO SHOW PROOF OF PROBABLE CAUSE TO GET A SEARCH WARRANT OF ANYONE'S HOME! BUT IF THEY HAVE ACCESS TO Medical records,they will seek out only those who are have been unjured & must be on a narcotic medication inorder to have some control over that pain! ( FYI: 75 million Americans suffer from Chronic pain 24/7! There are millions get injured car accidents or on the job, some may be back to normal in a couple weeks or so, some injuries last longer, perhaps months, then there are the more unfortunate patients who's have surgeries, therapies.etc and still there is nothing more that can be done to improve their injuries, their last resort is pain treatment, pain meds. Media & our goverment has brainwash citizens beleaving more people abuse their med, never about if meds. used correctly the millions of successful treatment controlling chronic pain, to many unknowing people against meds.intirely! There are only a few who abuse. But Law inforcement has lost their war against street drugs! & billions of the tax payers dollars! Now they want you to agree to give them access to all the medical records of citizens in this country! This is as close to Marshal Law as we can get! They will seek out anyone (you?)taking medications for pain, and target them, possilby YOU or your injured child! By the time they are done,more "innocent" people be labled as drug uses, giving them probable cause to raid any home, but it show their doing their

8:23AM PDT on Oct 21, 2009

They can find out anything they want to as long as they have your SS number and that is a fact people have forgotten and that is a fact.

12:16PM PDT on Oct 10, 2009

Besides having access to medical records, the FBI and Homeland Security can have access to your safety deposit box at the bank, can go into your home and take records, copy records on your computer without a search warrant, and do not have to let you know that they did. The Patriot Act is something we must all stand up and just say "No". Call your representatives and senators and tell them NO. We lost rights under the drug war and now we are losing more rights under the Terrorism scare. Not much different that Germany in the days of HItler. Please wake up America and see the lack of light.

9:05PM PDT on Oct 8, 2009

Preventing abuses of our rights is why medical records require a subpeona to gain access by anyone in the government.

We cannot become our own enemy to protect our freedom. It is like drilling extra holes in the bottom of the boat to keep it from sinking.

12:52PM PDT on Oct 8, 2009

This gets complicated when you factor in the likes of Manson or other serial killers. It would actually be a huge benefit to be able to examine ever piece of evidence, including hours of "therapy talk"...

But the likelihood of a TERRORIST using Mental Health services, A SUICIDE BOMBER CALLING THE CRISIS line is unlikely at best, so it's a colossal waste of time and betrayal of the trust of the American People.

Obama, Talk is Cheap. Change this place!

11:21AM PDT on Oct 8, 2009

This has already been happening for almost eight years now. I was in counseling several years ago until my counselor asked me if I thought the stolen election and the Patriot Act and the World Trade Center and a lot of other strange events was a conspiracy theory. I answered "yes." It was at the time that everyone was still afraid to say anything bad about Bush. A week or two later she wanted me to sign HIPAA paperwork for insurance purposes. In reading through the paperwork, I discovered that, by signing the papers, I was agreeing to let the government access my personal psychiatric records. It was at that point that I completely stopped my counseling sessions. So this is definitely not something new, just something that many people are not aware of.

10:06AM PDT on Oct 8, 2009

What happened to snooping without a warrent is illegal? How did we go from impeaching Nixon for illegal wire tapping to suddenly its ok? If we give up our rights so the goverment will protect us from the terrorist then who is going to protect us from the goverment?

10:03AM PDT on Oct 8, 2009

Barbara, if you are asking where my fussing was under the previous administrations, please read some of my old posts. I was hopeful that as this administration would retract the constitutional abuses of the previous administrations, and on some issues they have. On most of the Patriot Act, however, they have not. Frankly, this is not an issue of Democrat/Republican since one of the biggest advocates of the broad powers of 215 is Senator Feinstein. This is a question of end-running constitutional due process and privacy protections.

9:50AM PDT on Oct 8, 2009

There you go again, blaming Mr. Obama, whose nose is clean. Where was your fussing when the two monsters of the last administration were in power, doing a hell of a lot worse?

9:31AM PDT on Oct 8, 2009

Jessica,

Thanks for the clarification! Then yes this certainly is a concern because patient confidentiality laws should not be breached.
I am going to make sure I contact my reps about this. thanks.

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