I know some of you may get tired of me talking about my novel What So Proudly We Hailed, and I know that every time I do it seems like a plug for the book (which it is), but sometimes I just can’t help it.
I am no prophet, but I continue to see things happening in our world that are eerily similar to what takes place in the book. Instead of making me feel triumphant for my “visionary realism” however, it just scares the hell out of me.
Humor me for just a moment and read the following passage from WSPWH that was written 2 years ago:
The HMO’s, for instance, who ran the country’s healthcare system wanted to know how well you were taking care of your body. What did you buy at the grocery store? How much of it did you get, and how often did you go back for more? How many hours were you at the health club? Did you eat fast food? Did you smoke? Did you drink? Were you complying with your individual health mandate – making your scheduled doctor’s appointments, getting your vaccinations on time, and taking your prescribed meds?
There were risks that had to be managed and profits that had to be maximized, and now that your life – and the way you lived it – was an open book that could be studied and compared and analyzed down to the smallest detail, your individual risk and profit potential could be adjusted accordingly. And just like that, healthcare premiums began to shoot up.
It didn’t even matter if you didn’t like it. You were part of the healthcare system and all of your assets were electronically held by your bank; you didn’t get a bill, it was just automatically deducted from your account. You couldn’t opt out.
Do you understand? You could not opt out.
There was no way to say ‘no’.
Now read the following selected passages from this CNET article dated February 10th (emphasis mine on bolded sections): U.S. stimulus bill pushes e-health records for all
What didn't come up during the president's first press conference was how one section of the convoluted legislation--it's approximately 800 pages total--is intended to radically reshape the nation's medical system by having the government establish computerized medical records that would follow each American from birth to death.
Billions will be handed to companies creating these databases. Billions will be handed to universities to incorporate patient databases "into the initial and ongoing training of health professionals." There's a mention of future "smart card functionality."
Yet nowhere in this 140-page portion of the legislation does the government anticipate that some Americans may not want their medical histories electronically stored, shared, and searchable. Although a single paragraph promises that data-sharing will "be voluntary," there's no obvious way to opt out.
The databases will, "at a minimum," include information on every American's race and ethnicity. They will be used for "biosurveillance and public health" and "medical and clinical research," both of which raise privacy questions. They will become part of a "nationwide system for the electronic use and exchange of health information."
Plus, the federal government will use its vast purchasing power--think Medicare and Medicaid--to compel adoption of e-records that meet government "standards and implementation specifications."
Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C. says he believes PPR "is right to be concerned that the Senate bill would allow for the commercialization of confidential medical information. It changes the incentive structure in data collection."
The bill punishes physicians who are not "meaningful users" of a government-certified e-record database, and specifies certain procedures and information exchanges that will "satisfy" the requirement.
Starting in 2015, government reimbursements to physicians who are not participating in the federal e-record effort will begin to decline.
Am I wrong to be unsettled? What really scares me is when I think of how I ended What So Proudly We Hailed. If our future is even remotely similar, God help us all.