December 5, 2019
Maverick Health Policy Update
Maverick Health Policy was in Las Vegas this week to present at the Millenium Alliance invitation-only Healthcare Payers Transformation summit. Plans from all over the country were very interested in the pending interoperability rule, the price transparency proposed rule, and exploring solutions for social determinants of health.
U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden are asking CMS, the FTC, and health care companies (BCBSA, Humana, UnitedHealth Group, CVS-Aetna, CIGNA) to examine racial bias in their algorithms, which is a reaction to a study published in October called “Dissecting racial bias in an algorithm used to manage the health of populations” by UC Berkeley, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Partners Healthcare in Boston.
We may sound like a broken record, but it is true that there is yet another congressional data privacy proposal. This one was introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and three other Democrats, requiring companies to obtain consent before distributing consumer data and giving the FTC more enforcement powers.
One Thoughtful Paragraph
Former FTC commissioners, Walmart, and two other witnesses testified at the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing “Examining Legislative Proposals to Protect Consumer Data Privacy” on December 4, 2019. None of these thoughtful, experienced witnesses stated that Congress must take great caution to ensure the flow of health data is not hindered by an overarching federal data privacy law. To the contrary, they agreed that there needs to be a strong, comprehensive federal privacy law and health care was scarcely mentioned. In fact, in one written statement, a former FTC commissioner called for the “highest protections” of sensitive personal data like health information. While it was disappointing that there was no acknowledgement of the special nature of health data, the witnesses seemed to agree that the FTC needs significantly more resources to oversee and enforce this new era of data accessibility -- answering a Senator’s question at one point that “500 more employees” should be added to the FTC for these purposes. More interesting was the comment by Georgetown Law Professor Laura Moy, who’s primary emphasis was about protecting civil rights and not allowing health data to be used in a discriminatory way, said that Congress may consider a new data privacy agency -- which is akin to what we said in our Health Affairs blog post -- but we are trying to direct attention to not only privacy, but the importance of ensuring the free flow of data that needs to be exchanged for the health and welfare of Americans. Brookings published a thoughtful article about a federal privacy proposal will become law soon, but, again, only emphasizes privacy -- not protecting consumer’s rights to make sure information flow is happening for the betterment of their health.