Blog note, Health Care, Linda Gorman

Colorado’s privacy snatching health database doesn’t have to be accurate

In 2010, the Colorado legislature voted to create an all-payer claims database. It gives a private organization, the Center for Improving Value in Health Care (CIVHC), the right to collect information on you whenever you receive medical care. By passing this law, the legislature decreed that you cannot get medical care in Colorado without giving up your medical privacy. According to its initial grant request, CIVHC plans to support itself by asking the Colorado legislature to pass an “assessment fee” on various aspects of health care.

In plain language, it wants to benefit from a special tax. It also plans to profit by selling your data to the state and various commercial interests. The Colorado legislature could restore medical privacy by repealing the law that created CIVHC. It has not chosen to do so.

icon_blog_noteSupporters claimed that CIVHC would be a great thing. Like ObamaCare, it was supposed to lower health care costs. Because it collected data on payments for various conditions, it would be able to find the lowest cost treatments.  Yet insurers and Medicaid already have years’ worth of such data.  This claim also conveniently ignores that data from the Congressional Budget Office indicate that private companies have done a better job of improving quality and controlling cost increases than either Medicaid or Medicare.

So far, CIVHC has published a few reports. It has found that an MRI of the knee is much more expensive in Summit County. It has found that Denver, Summit, Pueblo, Weld, El Paso, Jefferson, LaPlata and Morgan counties have a high utilization (called the “illness burden”) of  knee replacements, defined as the number of knee replacements received by people living in the county divided by the county’s population. The problem is that only 25 to 50 percent of the population in each county is included in the data, so CIVHC also is quick to point out that no one really knows what this means.

Even if the entire population was included, the benefits of knowing the “illness burdens” do not make up for the cost of losing medical privacy. Eagle County has a relatively low “illness burden” for knee replacements. Of course, knee replacements are for worn-out joints, a condition that is more common in the elderly, the overweight, and those who have put in a lifetime of manual labor. Unsurprisingly, worn-out joints are mostly found in older people. The percent of the population in Eagle County that is 65 or older is 6.9 percent. In Morgan County, it is 15 percent. Statewide, the percentage is 11.8 percent.

Not that any of this really matters. Although CIVHC has the right to take your data and sell it, they are apparently under no obligation to get it right.  According to the terms of use on its website, “CIVHC, in its role as APCD Administrator makes no guarantee regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information provided through the Site” (emphasis theirs).

Linda Gorman is health care policy center director at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver




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