Employees’ unhealthy habits have growing effect on their insurance premiums

The story below concludes that “Employees now contribute 42 percent more for health care than they did five years ago.”   Just because employees are stuck paying higher healthcare bills doesn’t necessarily mean they are causing costs to increase.

If employees were driving up healthcare costs, then using financial penalties to force them to undergo intrusive health screenings and join wellness programs might make sense.

But employees aren’t causing the high costs of healthcare in the US.  Time magazine concluded that healthcare corporations, such as hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry, outpatient procedures, and lobbying costs are the main culprits.

Time magazine’s issue titled “Bitter Pill, why medical bills are killing us” identified several factors in high US healthcare costs:

The article below quotes the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a lobbying group with assests of $18,772,047 in 2011. The NBGH blames employees for rising healthcare costs, instead of its many healthcare corporation members.

  • -URL for NBGH members: https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/join/members.cfm
  • -Blaming employees allows the NBGH to defend using coercive, intrusive wellness programs even for employees with complex, hard-to-manage illnesses, that wellness programs don’t help:
    • -See “Wellness Incentives In The Workplace: Cost Savings Through Cost Shifting To Unhealthy Workers” By Jill R. Horwitz, Brenna D. Kelly, and John E. DiNardo. Health Affairs, 32, no.3 (2013):468-476; doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.0683; http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/3/468.full.html

Meanwhile screening companies, labs, and wellness programs collect sensitive employee health information and control its use, disclosure, and sale.

  • -There is no ‘chain of custody’ for health data so employees have no way to know who sees their health information.
  • -The US has NO data map to track the thousands of hidden companies that collect, use, or sell Americans’ personal health information.
  • -Corporations that collect employees’ health information treat it as a corporate asset, not as sensitive personal information that patients have strong rights to control.
  • -So it’s impossible to verify whether the NBGH lobbyist’s statement that “few employers would risk intentionally misusing such information” is true or false.

Blaming people who are sick for the high costs of their medical care instead of the corporations that overcharge is a really neat trick. It also provides a rationale for coercing employees to enter wellness programs and violating their rights to health privacy.

Unfortunately, simply “blaming the victims” won’t solve escalating healthcare costs.  We have to look broadly at individuals, the entire healthcare system, the food-chain, and larger cultural factors to identify and deal with all the real causes.

athenahealth and Mashery team up for health developer-friendly API initiative

To view the full article, please visit athenahealth and Mashery team up for health developer-friendly API initiative.

Electronic health records (EHRs) companies allow access to patients sensitive health data and sensitive information about physicians’  practices so technology companies can develop applications.

Applications have the potential to be useful to physicians and patients but at what cost to privacy? Will EHR “apps” secretly collect and sell people’s information the way Smartphone apps collect and sell contact, GPS data and more?  We now know the business model for many technologies is selling intimate personal data.

Quotes:

  • ·athenahealth will open “access to doctors’ appointment data, patient’s medical history (anonymized) , billing information and more”,
  • ·“the company hopes developers will be able to create an ecosystem of apps on top of athenahealth’s EMR service”
  • ·“Other EMR providers, including Allscripts and Greenway, have also opened up their APIs to developers and created app marketplaces.”

The press release on this athenahealth project stated, We’re providing the data and knowledge from our cloud-based network, a captive audience for developers to innovate for, and an online sandbox to do it all in.”

  • ·Who are the “captives”? athenahealth’s 40,000 physicians and their 100’s of thousands of patients

QUESTIONS:

  • ·When were the “captive” patients asked for consent for strangers who want to use and monetize their health records?
  • ·When were “captive” physicians asked consent for strangers to use information about their practices, what they charge, who they treat, how they treat patients, how they are paid by whom, and much more?
  • ·Why does athenahealth claim that patient data is “anonymized”—-when its impossible to prevent “anonymized” patient records from easy re-identification?

Many electronic health record (EHR) companies allow access/or sell sensitive patient data to technology developers and other companies.

BROADER QUESTIONS

  • ·When did the public learn about, debate, or agree to the use of their sensitive patient data by technology companies to build products?
  • ·Why do technology companies claim that “anonymization” and “de-identification” of health data works, when computer science has clearly proved them wrong?
  • ·How is the identifiable health data of hundreds of thousands of patients protected from any OTHER uses the technology developers decide to use it for?
  • ·How can the public weigh the risks and harms vs. benefits of using EHRs when there is no ‘chain of custody’ for our health data and no data map that tracks the thousands of HIDDEN users of our personal health information?
  • See Harvard Prof Latanya Sweeney explain the need for a data map at: http://tiny.cc/5pjqvw
    • -Attend or watch via live-streaming video the 2103 International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy in Washington DC June 5-6 to see the first data map Prof Sweeney’s team has built. Registration to attend or watch is free at: www.healthprivacytsummit.org

How the Insurer Knows You Just Stocked Up on Ice Cream and Beer

View the full article at How the Insurer Knows You Just Stocked Up on Ice Cream and Beer.

Your employer already has access to personal medical information such as how often you get check ups and whether you’re taking prescription mediation through your insurance carrier, but now some companies are beginning to monitor where you shop and what you eat.

Some key quotes from the article:

“…But companies also have started scrutinizing employees’ other behavior more discreetly. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina recently began buying spending data on more than 3 million people in its employer group plans. If someone, say, purchases plus-size clothing, the health plan could flag him for potential obesity—and then call or send mailings offering weight-loss solutions.”

“Some critics worry that the methods cross the line between protective and invasive—and could lead to job discrimination. ‘It’s a slippery-slope deal,’ says Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights, which advocates for medical-data confidentiality. She worries employers could conceivably make other conclusions about people who load up the cart with butter and sugar.”

“Analytics firms and health insurers say they obey medical-privacy regulations, and employers never see the staff’s personal health profiles but only an aggregate picture of their health needs and expected costs. And if the targeted approach feels too intrusive, employees can ask to be placed on the wellness program’s do-not-call list.”