Bill Allowing Medical Privacy Intrusion Fails in Sacramento — Anti-Privacy Bill by Auto Insurers Faces Vote Wednesday

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Consumer Watchdog Hails Assembly Push Against Sale of Patients’ Prescription Information to Marketers; "Big Pharma’s Lobbying Steamroller Is Out of Gas," Says Advocate.

Sacramento, CA — A bill allowing marketers hired by drug companies to secretly access patient prescription drug records failed to get a single ‘yes’ in a key vote Tuesday in the Assembly Health Committee. Though some members who did not vote could technically cast votes before the end of the day, the failure of the measure (SB1096 by Sen. Charles Calderon), appeared assured.

On Wednesday, the Senate Banking, Finance & Insurance Committee will vote on Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s AB 2800, which would allow insurance companies to install “spyware” on customers’ cars that is capable of tracking mileage, where the car drives, and braking and acceleration rates.

On the pharmacy bill, Assembly committee members Tuesday seemed to respond to growing public scrutiny and outcry over looming privacy threats, especially after the bill passed the Senate, said Consumer Watchdog.

“Big Pharma’s lobbying steamroller ran out of gas in the Assembly,” said Jerry Flanagan, health policy director of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog. “Members of the Health Committee expressed their view that the bill was a misleading measure to push expensive brand-name drugs on consumers while violating their privacy.”

Many members of the committee did not vote at all, but no members called out a “Yes” vote during the hearing Monday, chaired by Asm. Mervin Dymally.

Under the measure, pharmacies could sell patient prescription records to a third-party company working on behalf of major pharmaceuticals manufacturers. The third-party company, called Adheris, would then send out mailings to patients “reminding” them to take their name-brand drugs.

During the hearing, Flanagan made the following points:

– Privacy is a fundamental right of all Californians – protected in the second sentence of the CA constitution. Prop 11, which added “privacy” to the constitution sought to bar a “business interest” from stockpiling our private information without our consent.
– California’s gold standard of patient privacy, the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act requires a patient to give prior consent before private medical information is transferred or shared for non-medical purposes such as marketing.
– This bill would create a loophole in the privacy law on behalf of commercial interests by allowing pharmacies to sell patient drug records without a patient’s knowledge.
– Once transferred, there is threat of misuse, accidental leaks, and theft.
– In fact, there are more than 250,000 cases of medical identity theft each year.  Drug records are valuable information for marketers, insurance companies and employers.
– What a patient believed to be safely secured in a pharmacy database would now be available to prying eyes as “reminders” are mailed to the home or workplace.
– As is the case for financial information, once the information is release electronically it is impossible to put the genie back into the bottle and that information becomes available on the information black market.
– The contract between Adheris and pharmacies will supposedly limit the use of the information.  But who will enforce the contract?
– The opt-out provision is meaningless. Bill sponsors know that consumers won’t see the opt-out provision buried in the stack of papers handed to them by the pharmacist.  The standard for privacy should not be if you fail to act, you waive your right to privacy.

Second Anti-Privacy Bill Will Be Heard Wednesday

Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s AB 2800, which will be voted on Wednesday in the Senate Banking, Finance & Insurance Committee, would allow insurance companies to require drivers to install spyware in their cars that tracks speed, acceleration, location, time of day, mileage and other data, said Consumer Watchdog. Under the legislation, consumers who refuse to give up their privacy would pay higher rates.

Sponsors say the bill would encourage motorists to drive less by lowering insurance rates for lower mileage. However, AB 2800 would give discounts to drivers who put black box technology in their cars, not those with lower mileage. Legislators who value their constituents’ privacy must know that this bill would require drivers to pay in order to protect their privacy, said Consumer Watchdog.
“Insurers want to know where we drive, when we drive and how long it takes us to get there, but they shouldn’t get to charge more to Californians who won’t accept their spying,” said Carmen Balber of Consumer Watchdog. “Under new regulations that take effect next month, Proposition 103 already requires insurers to charge people less if they drive less. AB 2800 just lets insurance companies charge drivers more for refusing to let them pry in their cars.”

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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