Whose Health Records are Vulnerable?
Employees: Today, laws governing access to health records expose employees to the possibility of employment discrimination. Thirty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies admitted to looking at employee’s health records before making hiring and promotion decisions (65 Fed. Reg. 82,467). As employers seek to reduce health insurance costs, little prevents them from viewing employees’—and employee’s families—health records to get rid of capable employees with costly health conditions. Employment should be based on who can do the job—not what’s in our health files.
Women: Women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in employment, insurance and in the financial and credit arena. Women have specific, sensitive health issues that have nothing to do with what kind of job they can perform or whether or not they should get credit or insurance.
Children: In the age of genetic testing, how will information about our children’s health affect their futures? Should they be denied entry to college because they tested positive for a cancer gene or were treated for depression as a teenager? Should they be turned down for a job because they have a grandparent who had Alzheimers? Without privacy, our children’s health records could deny them the future they deserve.
Seniors: After a lifetime of health treatment, seniors’ health records contain a wealth of information that could harm them, their children and their grandchildren. Should a grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease keep her grandchildren from getting a job? Should a widower’s depression over the death of a spouse keep him from getting auto insurance? Should a diagnosis expose a senior to drug company marketing disguised as “education”?
Consumers: As health records are spread over electronic networks, banks, insurance corporations, and lenders can access our most personal health records. Should homeowners pay higher interest rates because they are cancer survivors? Should drivers be denied automobile insurance because they have a medical condition? Without privacy, consumers’ health histories expose them to real financial risks and threaten their livelihoods.