Chipping away at liberals’ belief in Obama’s program *UPDATED*

For reasons too complicated to explain, I have more than a passing knowledge about medical informatics — or, in simple terms, the trend to put all patient records in computerized systems.  That’s why, at a soccer game, a young woman who is clearly an Obama supporter asked me what I thought of the move to put all American medical records in a federal database.  “What harm can it do?” she asked.

We both agreed that a comprehensive federal medical database probably couldn’t harm people financially, the way identity theft scams can.  I suggested to her, though, that federal control over medical records — could harm people in much more significant ways.  For example, I said, a 50 year old, vital man, might not want the feds responsible for keeping secret the fact that he has to use Viagra.  Likewise, I said, no one wants information about their hemorrhoids to go much beyond their own doctor.  Hackers, I pointed out, could easily blackmail or humiliate people with information such as that.

Further, I said, it’s not only, or even primarily, the big diseases like cancer or AIDS that are the problem.  For most people, privacy means keeping around them a zone in which they forever function like a healthy young person, free of warts and erectile dysfunctions and fibroids and whatever other systemic failures people don’t want to admit to having.

She was much struck by this argument.  She certainly agreed with me that the average citizen would be wise not to trust the government with his or her secrets.  She understood, as I do, that government loses control of secrets, that a hostile administration may give away secrets, that individual government employees abuse secrets and that, by the nature of government, too many people know the secrets.

The gal pointed out, though, that we already give that same information to insurance companies, hospitals and doctors offices, and that they too have that information on their computer systems.  That’s different, I explained.  In those cases, there’s a one on one quid pro quo that precedes the entity’s taking on and computerizing that information.  Thus, I, personally, agree to go to that doctor and I acknowledge that, as a necessary adjunct to my treatment, the doctor needs to create and maintain my medical records.  Likewise, I choose to have insurance and, as part of that agreement, I also agree that it is reasonable for the insurance company, before it pays for my health care, to know what’s wrong with me.

With a federal database, though, I don’t get to make that agreement.  The federal government, as it just did, dictates by legislative fiat that it is entitled to create and control these records — and, being the government, to lose, abuse, publicize, sell or, ultimately, use these records as a justification to deny me medical care entirely.  There is no quid pro quo here.  There is no contract.  There is simply a federal government using its vast power to access and control, not only my big secrets (assuming I have any), but my little, humiliating secrets, the ones that knock down the sphere of physical inviolability all of us like to believe we have around ourselves.

I doubt I shook this gal’s faith in Obama, or the Democrats, or even the spendulus plan.  But I like to believe I made her think. And maybe once she’s done thinking about this, she’ll start thinking about something else too.

UPDATE:  A little off topic, but a good reminder that you should never, never, never trust the government with your secrets.

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  • socratease

    Imagine what J. Edgar Hoover could have done with such a database. Or the bureaucrats who felt it was their public duty to dig up dirt on Joe the Plumber.

  • Deana

    Exactly, socratease.

    I told a woman I know who is a big Obama supporter that I am very concerned about the effort by the federal government to centralize medical records for obvious reasons but PARTICULARLY because Obama and apparently some who supported him financially and otherwise had no problem accessing government systems in an attempt to humiliate Joe Wurzelbacher.

    All because he asked a polite question of a candidate for president.

    What would happen if someone weren’t so polite? Or simply disagreed with the President? Or any Democrat? Well, there is no telling. . . .

    The Obama supporter I was talking to merely waved away my concern stating that breaches of privacy could happen anywhere.

    I held my tongue.

  • Deana

    Bookworm –

    The thing that amazes me is that you had to explain to this woman why federal control over our personal medical information is such a concern.

    Just the words “federal control over personal medical information” should strike fear in the hearts and minds of people. Again, people’s faith in government just astounds me.


  • highlander

    It’s scary enough to think of the government building and maintaining a database with your private medical information in it for all of the reasons you, Book, and Deana have so ably pointed out.

    It gets scarier still when you consider why Democrats and the Obama administration want to do it.

    Betsy McCaughey at reports Feb 9:

    According to this article, the database will be used by a new federal bureaucracy to determine whether or not the treatment your doctor is providing you is “cost effective” with penalties yet to be specified for health care providers who are not “meaningful users” of the new system.

    Construction of the database is Phase 1 in a plan to implement socialized medicine and rationed health care.

  • David Foster

    Off-topic: Book, you had a post a while back looking for ideas as to how the RNC could use technology more effectively.

    I just got a priority mail envelope from the RNC member senate fund, looking for money to help Norm Coleman in his Senate fight with the awful Al Franken. The letter emphasized the *urgency* of making a contribution…but the only way it provided for this contribution to be made was a first-class mail envelope with a 42 cent stamp on it. NO web address, NO phone number for making contributions by credit card.

    If a marketing person working for me did a campaign with this level of clueness, his tenure would be very short.


    Thanks for sharing your story, bookworm. Bit by bit, drop by drop, person by person. We each need to shine light to those around us.

    David Foster: I will not contribute to the Republican senate fund, and your note reinforces that resolve. OTOH, I would contribute to an independent fund which would either forward on contributions or (better yet) finance its own campaign in support of deserving GOP senators.

    In fact, the more I reflect on things, the more I believe that the cause of liberty would best be served by a few large organizations collecting money and engaging in effective educational and advocacy advertisements.

  • Deana –

    I totally agree!!

    I have just about given up on expecting anything worthwhile coming out of Republican anything. Especially today after hearing what Mr. Steele had to say about Rush Limbaugh and his apparent understanding at how the RNC looked like “Nazi Germany.”

    The only reason Rush seems like the leader of Republicans and Conservatives is because no one else is out there promoting and explaining our principles on a national level.

    Sometimes when I get a chance to calmly discuss politics with a leftist, I am shocked at their misunderstanding of conservatism. Education is key to promoting and expanding conservative principles.

    Unlike leftist ideology, we have nothing to hide. We don’t have to be weak and rely on emotions to express what we believe.

    I’d love to see some advertisements that promote our ideals. And I’d be willing to give money to support them!

  • Danny Lemieux

    So, let’s see how this would work: loved one has heart condition. Physician must ask government what appropriate treatment is. Government file check determines that loved one has diabetes. Consequently, risk of complications (ergo cost) is high. Government decides care is too high risk and not economically worthwhile. Available heart care is given to another, more-deserving patient who does not suffer other complications.

    Sorry…out of luck! Loved one is given aspirin and recommended bed rest (at home, of course). Can you go to find alternative care for loved one? No…America was the last refuge for the truly sick and but now that’s gone. Want to complain to the government health care system? Well, good luck with that.

    Government care is rationed care. Anyone who thinks differently is truly living in a world of delusion.

  • Ymarsakar

    The Obama supporter I was talking to merely waved away my concern stating that breaches of privacy could happen anywhere.

    They wouldn’t be so cavalier if the issue was about abortion as a “right of privacy”.

  • Al

    Deana, C.B.Ideas, and all,
    Yes, some national organizations with a vested interest in a strong private economy could re-educate the voters with targeted informmercials. Remember the commercials the health insurance companies used to help kill Hilarycare?
    It would have to be massive. And initially designed to turn the control of the House back to the Republicans in 2010.
    And it is imperative to achieve. Read the lead piece in the AT today.

  • zabrina

    I am so glad you wrote this and I am so glad you are talking about it with people you encounter. We should all be doing this. Waiting for “the government” or for “the media” or “the Republicans” or “the Republican National Committee” to do anything is pretty well-known to be futile by now. It comes down to us as individuals, linked by technology.

    I hate that people think that unless the government digitizes medical records it can’t be done. Why can’t people have their medical records on a credit-card-sized chip they carry around with them, produced by private enterprise, similar to digitized records accessed via credit card? Why couldn’t your private medical insurance card also hold your medical records? As Newt Gingrich pointed out in the comparison of ATM cards vs. immigration/customs/border patrol, private companies and private enterprise could think up and handle this solution so much better, faster, and cheaper.

    People should already be doing and investing in this.

  • David Foster

    Problem with storing medical records on cards, to be carried around by individuals, is that these cards will inevitably get lost, damaged in accidents, etc. It should be possible, however, to store data on a server somewhere with a legal structure which clearlhy assigns ownership and control of these records to the patient…just as a business today can entrust its sales records to a “cloud” computer service with assurance that these records won’t be given to a competitor or released (without a subpoena) to the government.

  • David Foster

    Privacy issues aside, very large software development projects have a pretty dismal track record. For example, there was Hershey Halloween Hell, when the installation of a new enterprise system caused serious inventory control problems and supply shortages at the candy company’s peak season. And for the sad story of a system that was sponsored by the government and was implemented (partly implemented, anyway) by private enterprise, see my post here. One of the participants suggested that this project may have been “the greatest debacle in the history of organized work.”

  • Mike Devx

    Y #9,

    Oh that is good! Let’s all point out, in discussions with liberal friends, that their abortion records will be as freely available (via leaks and the usual government incompetence) as any other medical record.

    Face lifts and other plastic surgery, and yearly liposuctions, as they chase that “teenager look” well into their 60’s, too… remind the death-fearing, old-age-fearing libs of that. “Surrendering gracefully the things of youth” isn’t exactly high on their list.

    It’s all gonna be there, for everyone to see…

    That alone might be enough (for them).

  • kali

    And one more concern that might get liberals interested in privacy again–personal information is worth money, and state governments at least have been known to sell its records to acquisitive third parties–and the temptation will only get stronger when it gets its hands on something as profitable as medical information.

    And it will use our SSN’s for a primary identifier, which will tie it into every other database the government holds on us. There won’t be anything they won’t know.

    For something a little depressing, here’s the last lines of Auden’s Unknown Citizen:

    “Was he free? Was he Happy? The question is absurd:
    Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. “

  • Deana

    Y – you are spot on.

    And Mike D – I’ll do exactly that. Every time there is an opportunity to discuss the dangers of the government managing our medical records, I’ll toss that in.

  • Ymarsakar

    Keep chipping away, Book. Eventually you’ll find them thar gold in them hills.

    Every time there is an opportunity to discuss the dangers of the government managing our medical records, I’ll toss that in.

    Fake liberals have mental vulnerabilities. Rush mentioned this in the speech I linked to. Take advantage of those vulnerabilities, Deana, it will make your fights much less energy intensive.

    Remember what Sun Tzu said about the art of war ; )

  • suek

    >>“Surrendering gracefully the things of youth” isn’t exactly high on their list.

    It’s all gonna be there, for everyone to see…>>

    Heh. One word…


  • Ymarsakar

    And one more concern that might get liberals interested in privacy again–personal information is worth money, and state governments at least have been known to sell its records to acquisitive third parties–and

    Yeah, spam. That’s a great argument.



    “Sometimes when I get a chance to calmly discuss politics with a leftist”

    I am impressed with your mental skills. I certainly could not even link the two words ‘calm and leftist’ in a single sentence without blood shooting from my eyes.
    Goggles now off.