Like Being Monitored? The Fed Watches Every Prescription Medication You Take! Your State May Watch You, Too!
Uncle Sam Knows What You Are Doing!
The Federal Prescription Database Law Means The Government Is Watching You!
If you ever have any concerns about your right to privacy, don't worry. Your right to privacy in this country is imaginary. If you take any prescription medications, the government knows and tracks them. In 2005, President George W. Bush signed into law the Federal Prescription Database Law. The law provided for the creation of a national database to list the prescribed medications you take. The database also tracks how often you purchase those medications. The database and the information recorded has been used by the government for many purposes; one of which is to determine criminal behavior such as doctor shopping. That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Law enforcement, medical providers and pharmacies have access to your medication records. The question of hacker access is also a concern.
Additionally, 37 states have also created prescription databases. They are called Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PMP's) and even though the law was originally designed to track opoids and painkillers, all of your prescriptions may be noted.
The government, in its wisdom, believes that these databases are designed to protect your health and safety and that is a valid enough reason to circumvent any right to privacy you may believe you have. It is amazing how easily people will give up their rights when they are told it is for their own good. No complaints, no questions asked because the government says these databases will help them document and treat drug abuse. It is my understanding that drug abuse in this country has not decreased, but increased in the 6 years that this law has been in effect. However, the implementation of these databases has cost millions and millions of dollars.
Reassuring To Know That The Government Takes HIPAA So Seriously! Not!
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was supposed to protect private patient information. HIPAA is the reason that when you check in at your doctor's office, you have to wait behind a line so that you cannot hear the patient in front of you. Unless you are hearing impaired, the line doesn't work. Most people hear everything said by the patient in front of them.
HIPAA is also the reason that when you go to the pharmacy, there is one of those lines where 'X' Marks the Spot. Again, the line is a ridiculous attempt to protect your privacy. That privacy boundary is useless unless the pharmacist and the patient are whispering or speaking in some secret code. The patient in front of you becomes even more interesting when the pharmacist announces that he or she is seeking a refill of their medication too soon. "Why, Mrs. Jane Doe, you just picked up this controlled substance 24 days ago! It is far too soon for you to be seeking a refill. Are you using too much of this medication? Should we call your doctor?" or "Mr. John Doe, your Zoloft (for depression) cannot be refilled at this time. We don't have it in stock." or even worse, they call you by your real name, ask you to verify your address and phone number and then say, "Your insurance won't cover your Viagara! Do you want to pay cash?"
These attempts to protect patient information are, at best, ludicrous, but you would think that a prescription database is even more of a violation of HIPAA. If the intent of the law is to protect your privacy, easily accessed prescription databases would seem to be contrary to the goal of privacy protection. Violations have occurred, even with just the use of networked computers and less than ethical staff.
A few years ago, right before the national pharmacy database was created, a very large nation-wide pharmacy chain was accused of and sued by patients because members of their pharmacy staff would enter descriptive and even slanderous statements about customers. The comments ranged from "This lady is a PSYCHO" to "This patient is a BITCH" all the way to "This patient is a low-life drug-seeker". The computer network at the time was connected to over 5,000 of the chains' stores and those comments were available for viewing by each and every pharmacy employee. The patients became aware of the slanderous comments because the comments appeared on the paper printouts that accompany medications.
Even though that case was brought to court and settled by the chain, complaints about privacy violations and pharmacies continue to persist and the internet is flooded with them.
Why Your New Doctor May Not Need To Ask What Medications You Take!
Personal experience may seem irrelevant, but recent events have made me more aware of how little privacy we have. I have worked in the medical field for over 30 years and must be HIPAA certified annually, but was unaware of the national pharmacy database, much less the state pharmacy database. I guess I should have known, but the thought never entered my mind. Now I wonder if my name has been flagged as a 'drug seeker'.
In the last two months, I underwent a very serious surgery and when I was discharged from the hospital I was asked if I needed pain medications, in spite of the fact that they already knew that I have been a pain management patient for 4 years due to a degenerative spine and a failed spinal fusion. I told the doctor that I needed no additional medication and was advised to increase my dosage from one pill every 6 hours to one pill every 4 hours. At the time, I didn't even think about running out of the medication too soon.
Since then, my insurance coverage has changed and I have had to choose a new doctor and hospital network that is completely unrelated to the first hospital. They do not share medical records. Upon my first appointment with my new doctor, I brought in all of my medications in the original containers. He put my name in his computer and every medication that I had received in the unrelated hospital appeared, as well as all of my regular medications. I was, needless to say, a little surprised that even the antibiotics that had been prescribed in the hospital appeared on the computer screen. I didn't ask why at the time, just volunteered that I was no longer taking the hospital meds.
The physician then gave me new prescriptions for all of my current medications. Because I had been instructed to take more of my pain management medications after surgery, I was running out and went to the new network pharmacy with my new insurance information and my prescriptions. Again, this prescription had never been filled at this pharmacy, but I was told that it was "...too soon to fill this prescription and that the directions say take one every 6 hours, was I taking too many and did I have a problem?"
So, today, after a little bit of research, some embarrassment and even more anger, I have educated myself. Yes, Jillian, the government is watching you, but don't be concerned. The loss of privacy is good for you...Your government says so...