The American Health Security Act and Privacy: What Does It Really Cost?


Susan E. Corsey


VOL. XII • Spring 1994 • NO. 4 (table of contents)

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For many years, the American health care system has been plagued by dependence on a cumbersome paper-based recording system that adds to the astronomical cost of health care in the U. S. In 1994, President Clinton proposed a national health care plan, the American Health Security Act, that would ensure comprehensive health care insurance to all Americans regardless of health or employment status. The proposed system depends on a centralized computer system that offers streamlined access to health care information, which must be accessible anywhere the patient goes.

Although the proposed system would offer greater efficiency and consistency in the provision of health care, the centralized electronic databases would consolidate confidential medical information into a "womb-to-tomb dossier" that could be accessed by unauthorized parties. Thus, ease of use and benefits of the national system must be balanced against the patient's interest in keeping his or her medical information secure - a right based in tort law protection against publicity given to private life.

The current version of the Act does not provide specific, concrete safeguards of patient information. The legislature, when passing the Act, must include provisions ensuring the confidentiality of patient information, and such protections must be in place at the time of enactment. Otherwise, confidential information will be at risk of unnecessary, unauthorized disclosure while patients wait for Congress to take appropriate action.

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