Warm Southern Breeze

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Will You Release Your Medical Records?

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, February 9, 2020

Just in the case you may not know it, there’s a law in our United States called HIPAA, which is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Signed into law in 1996 by then-POTUS Bill Clinton, the long title is “An Act To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1996 to improve portability and continuity of health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets, to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in health insurance and health care delivery, to promote the use of medical savings accounts, to improve access to long-term care services and coverage, to simplify the administration of health insurance, and for other purposes.”

The biggest takeaway from the bill for most people is the privacy it mandates for patient’s medical records, care, and treatment. With fines/penalties for violation starting at $250,000 per violation, an entire industry has grown up around HIPAA.

The Department of Health and Human Services summarizes, in part, the law’s privacy provisions:

“The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) required the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop regulations protecting the privacy and security of certain health information.1 To fulfill this requirement, HHS published what are commonly known as the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule. The Privacy Rule, or Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, establishes national standards for the protection of certain health information. The Security Standards for the Protection of Electronic Protected Health Information (the Security Rule) establish a national set of security standards for protecting certain health information that is held or transferred in electronic form. The Security Rule operationalizes the protections contained in the Privacy Rule by addressing the technical and non-technical safeguards that organizations called “covered entities” must put in place to secure individuals’ “electronic protected health information” (e-PHI). Within HHS, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has responsibility for enforcing the Privacy and Security Rules with voluntary compliance activities and civil money penalties.”

POTUS Bill Clinton Signing HIPAA

Before the HIPAA existed, there were no security standards nor requirements to protect patients’ health information or patients privacy in the entire health care industry. In reality, physicians, or anyone with access to the record – including the janitor and housekeeping crew – could simply access and divulge a patient’s entire medical record to the press, or to anyone, without any legal recourse for the victim. Now, it’s a violation of the law to even discuss any Personal Health Information, or Personally Identifying Information about the patient outside of a clinical setting, and that includes on elevators in hospitals. The law is so strict, that anyone who is not involved in the patient’s care cannot access the patient’s record without violating the law.

There have been cases where renown individuals, or those with celebrity status, including politicians, have had their records accessed by those within the healthcare system in violation of the law, ostensibly to satisfy their 24karat curiosity, or for other nefarious purposes, such as to gossip about the patient, or to divulge the information they found to the press. Healthcare organizations, especially large ones, are particularly sensitive to such violations of the HIPAA, and many, if not most, have policy in place to censure, or most often, dismiss for cause (fire) any employee who examines a record of a patient whom they’re not treating, or caring for.

In short, the law safeguards and protects patients’ right to privacy of their healthcare information in ways the average patient cannot imagine, including transmission of such information electronically, such as via facsimile or Internet.

The law also provides authorization for a patient to request a healthcare organization voluntarily release select portions of, or their entire medical records, to individuals whom they specify, such as to attorneys who may be representing their interests in a matter of law, including to the patients themselves, personally.

What many may not know about the law, is that it was a bipartisan bill sponsored by Ted Kennedy (1932-2009), a long-term Democratic Senator from Massachusetts (affectionately known as the “Liberal Lion of the Senate”), and Nancy Kassebaum (b.1932), a three-term Republican Senator from Kansas, and is sometimes colloquially known as the “Kennedy-Kassebaum Act.”

Today, on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday news-talk program with host Chuck Todd, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a front-running candidate for the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nominee, appeared and addressed several questions peppered to him by Chuck Todd (b.1972).

Todd, you may recall, was NBC’s college-drop-out marshmallow replacement for longest-serving (16 years), tough-as-nails, take-no-hostages host Tim Russert (1950-2008), who was widely-respected, and attorney by training, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Autopsy revealed that his heart attack was caused by a coronary artery plaque which was located in the Left Anterior Descending (LAD) artery, which is commonly called the “widow-maker” because of the high mortality rate associated with it.

Todd, who continuously interrupted his guest while he was attempting to answer questions, was his usual, incompetent self.

Senator Sanders handled Todd all in stride, and didn’t appear perturbed by the host’s rudeness to him.

One of the subjects addressed by Todd was Senator Sanders’ health. Born in 1941, Sanders has served in the Congress, first in the House from 1991-2007, and then in the Senate since.

Slightly over 9-and-half minutes into the nearly 11-minute interview, Todd then said, “In September 2019, before your heart incident, you had said the following about your medical records. Take a listen.”

[Video of Senator Sanders in a small room noted as being in Las Vegas, September 14, 2019, begins]: “I think it’s the right thing to do, the American people have a right to know, whether the person they’re going to be voting for, for President, is healthy, and we will certainly release our medical records before the primaries. [edit/cut] Certainly before first votes are cast.”

Todd: “The first votes have already been cast, you did not release your medical records. You released a few letters, nobody interviewed your doctors, you didn’t have a heart attack, apparently… shouldn’t voters see your medical records?” (crosstalk)

Sanders: “We have released as much documentation, I think, as any other candidate.”

Todd (interrupting): “But no other candidate’s had a heart attack.”

Sanders: “Well, look… no other candidate is doing 4 or 5 events a day, running all over this country.” (crosstalk)

Todd (interrupting): “I hear you… (crosstalk) You look… (crosstalk) No doubt, you’ve proven your mettle here, but voters… you heard voters have been concerned about that.”

Sanders: “You can start releasing medical records and never end. We have released a substantive part of all our medical records. We have doctors who are cardiologists who are confirming that I am in good health. I am in good health.”

Todd: “What changes have you… did the doctors ask you to make?”

Sanders: “I’m trying to walk a little more, but the schedule doesn’t allow me. They didn’t say… I’m trying to sleep a little better.”

Todd: “I guess winning will make you sleep better?”

Sanders: “Winning will make me sleep a lot better.”

Watch the NBC Meet the Press interview excerpt here:

There’s little doubt that the BIG BUSINESS Corporate interests in the Democratic Party are out with knives and pitchforks for Senator Sanders. It’s equally clear as well, that their BIG MONEY donors, and Corporations are, for the greatest part, engaged in an effort to derail Bernie’s candidacy… again. That includes NBC, which is owned by Comcast, and is colloquially known as “The Most Hated Company in America.” NBCUniversal itself owns a practical empire of media outlets throughout the nation, including radio and television stations, newspapers and magazine publishers, entertainment ventures, film studios, cable content providers, not only in the United States, but globally, as well. In fact, AT&T Broadband is owned by Comcast. Comcast also own Universal Studios. Comcast owns The Weather Channel.

Here’s an October 2017 dated article with an extensive listing of Comcast’s business holdings.

To be certain, it’s flabbergasting.

It doesn’t look like “competition,” and instead, it looks more like oligopoly – a reduced-competition market condition in which a small number of businesses exist, and can collude (and historically have) to manipulate prices, typically to increase them, never to lower them.

But, that matter aside – as important to private enterprise, entrepreneurship, and the American economy as it is – Chuck Todd’s inordinate and prying focus upon the private matter of Senator Sanders’ health is itself, unhealthy.

Certainly, as Senator Sanders has said, “it’s the right thing to do, the American people have a right to know, whether the person they’re going to be voting for, for President, is healthy.” And, Senator Sanders has made it explicitly clear that his cardiologist physicians (heart doctors) have said he is healthy.

Note that Chuck Todd first said “before your heart incident,” then said “you didn’t have a heart attack, apparently,” but then interrupted Senator Sanders by saying, “But no other candidate’s had a heart attack.”

To be certain, Chuck Todd contradicted himself, because Senator Sanders did NOT have a heart attack. What he likely experienced was angina, a condition in which blood flow in cardiac vessels (the heart’s own blood supply) are occluded (blocked), which can, and does often cause a sense of discomfort, or sometimes pain. The most common treatment for that condition (narrowing of cardiac blood vessels) is called cardiac catheterization, and uses stents to open the vessels.

Dr. James Hamblin, MD, is a staff writer at The Atlantic, and in October 2019, wrote an article about the matter, and the common procedure which Senator Sanders underwent to widen a narrowed cardiac blood vessel.

Chuck Todd, on the other hand, apparently suffered a “brain attack” or was hypoxic (lack of oxygen), by stating something contradictory to that which he twice previously stated.

And not only was Chuck Todd rude by interrupting Senator Sanders, but he was also inaccurate, and misleading by saying “you did not release your medical records.” But NBC bears some responsibility as well, because their editors also put a slant on the story by headlining the video excerpt as Sanders “won’t release additional medical records” which made it appear as if he has – or any candidate has – an obligation, duty, or responsibility to release his entire health history, and has violated some oath or trust to do so.

Senator Sanders has been explicitly clear, and has fulfilled what he has promised to do.

“You can start releasing medical records and never end.
We have released a substantive part of all our medical records.
We have doctors who are cardiologists who are confirming that I am in good health.
I am in good health.”

What is disconcerting about the “Main Stream Media” (MSM) and widespread journalism practices these days, is that they are less interested in getting their facts straight – being accurate and correct – than they are about stirring up a pot to create controversy, and thereby hopefully attract viewers.

Chuck Todd is part of pathological media symptomatology, which does disservice to the viewers, and voters.

The MSM can hardly be held accountable – all businesses are accountable ultimately, to the people, who are their customers – simply because of laws passed during the Clinton administration which decreased competition, and led American media companies to become global monoliths, a veritable media oligarchy.

In April 2018, Jacob Sugarman of MintPress News, an independent watchdog journalism organization, wrote an article about media consolidation which occurred under then-POTUS Clinton’s watch. Titled as “We Have Bill Clinton to Thank in Part for Trump’s Propaganda Machine,” it succinctly details the differences between “then” and “now” in a few succinct paragraphs, and ironically, makes an oblique case for changes to the law, and illustrates the case in point for Senator Sanders position, that “the Supreme Court has weakened laws put in place to protect people from consolidation and monopolization and has left the economy to be run by a few large corporations.”

“In 1996, Clinton passed the Telecommunications Act, the first major overhaul of the country’s telecommunications legislation in over 60 years. For decades, the FCC abided what was known as the rule of seven, prohibiting any one company from owning more than seven AM or FM radio stations or seven television networks. Under President Ronald Reagan, the rule of seven became the rule of twelve. It wasn’t until the subsequent Democratic administration, however, that the rule was abandoned entirely in favor of a national ownership cap, allowing a single entity to own as much as 35 percent of market share.

“While the bill was truly bipartisan, earning 414 votes in the House and 91 in the Senate, Clinton was among its greatest champions. “It promotes competition as the key to opening new markets and new opportunities,” he said at the legislation’s signing. “It will help connect every classroom in America to the information superhighway by the end of the decade. It will protect consumers by regulating the remaining monopolies for a time and by providing a roadmap for deregulation in the future.”

“Twenty-two years later, that deregulation threatens to upend our democracy. The far-right Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which allegedly struck a deal with Jared Kushner during the 2016 election to provide the Trump campaign with more favorable coverage, currently reaches approximately 38 percent of American households. If the organization is successful in its acquisition of the Tribune Media Company, that number could climb to 72 percent.

““The Telecommunications Act of 1996 did not just permit consolidation in TV,” noted Guardian reporter Kevin Carty last November. “It paved the way for radio monopolization as well. Before the law, it was illegal for one company to own more than 40 radio stations. Today, the company formerly known as Clear Channel—iHeartMedia—owns 858 stations.”

“Hindsight is 20/20, and a Democratic president can shoulder only so much of the blame for a project as fundamentally authoritarian as movement conservatism. But like NAFTA and the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which have accelerated the demise of the working and middle classes, the Telecommunications Act offers yet another example of third-way politics sewing the seeds of the party’s destruction, if not the country’s. For this reason, the Sinclair merger must be stopped.

““A diverse, de-concentrated, and competitive media system protects free speech in the United States,” Carty continued. “It guarantees that public discourse cannot be monopolized by concentrated power, whether in form of populist demagogues or corporate plutocrats, as it is in so many less fortunate nations.””

Two years earlier, Michael Corcoran wrote an article which essentially stated the same thing. Initially published February 11, 2016 at Truthout, a 501(c)3 nonprofit independent news organization that accepts no advertising or corporate backing, it was also later published March 30, 2016 at BillMoyers.com.

Twenty Years of Media Consolidation Has Not Been Good For Our Democracy
The media has become controlled by a handful of corporations thanks to the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Twenty years ago last month, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act, signed into law on February 8, 1996, was “essentially bought and paid for by corporate media lobbies,” as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) described it, and radically “opened the floodgates on mergers.”

The negative impact of the law cannot be overstated. The law, which was the first major reform of telecommunications policy since 1934, according to media scholar Robert McChesney, “is widely considered to be one of the three or four most important federal laws of this generation.” The act dramatically reduced important Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations on cross ownership, and allowed giant corporations to buy up thousands of media outlets across the country, increasing their monopoly on the flow of information in the United States and around the world.

Twenty years later the devastating impact of the legislation is undeniable: About 90 percent of the country’s major media companies are owned by six corporations. Bill Clinton’s legacy in empowering the consolidation of corporate media is right up there with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and welfare reform, as being among the most tragic and destructive policies of his administration.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 is not merely a regrettable part of history. It serves as a stern warning about what is at stake in the future. In a media world that is going through a massive transformation, media companies have dramatically increased efforts to wield influence in Washington, with a massive lobbying presence and a steady dose of campaign donations to politicians in both parties — with the goal of allowing more consolidation, and privatizing and commodifying the Internet.

This issue has not been central in the 2016 presidential election. But it is deeply concerning that, of all the presidential candidates running in 2016, the Big Media lobby has chosen to back Hillary Clinton. Media industry giants have donated way more to her than any other candidate in the race, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In light of this, we must be mindful of the media reform challenges we face in the present, as we try to prevent the type of damage to our democracy that was caused by the passing of this unfortunate law.

Once again, using the same rhetoric as they used in the 2016 campaign, hoping that citizens have a short memory, MSM outlets, and others, are trying to make the case that as President, Sanders would be an unmitigated disaster to the American economy. His track record speaks otherwise.

Rohit Arora, a Forbes Contributor who specializes in Small Business Strategy wrote an article January 2016 about Sanders titled as “Could Bernie Sanders Be The Best Small Business President?, which stated in part that,

“Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, says that he has long pushed policies that help small businesses, encourage entrepreneurship, and foster innovation. Sanders supported the Small Business Jobs Act, which created a $30 billion lending fund designed to spur smaller banks to make loans and increased the limits on the amount that companies could borrow under SBA lending programs. Sanders believes that the government has not done enough to support growing companies.

“Small businesses take out loans so that they can improve and grow their businesses. Low interest rates on these loans can help businesses pay them back quickly while maintaining good cash flow, expanding the overall domestic economy, and creating more jobs,” Sanders maintains.

“He believes the U.S. “has long been a world leader in entrepreneurship and innovation, which in turn are the engines that drive our economy” and supports “increasing access to education and training, and reforming the way we bring workers into the U.S. in order to ensure that they are not being exploited to meet the needs of businesses who want to attract and retain the most talented foreign workers.”

Such positions could hardly be described as anti-American, and are certainly not “socialist” – unless you consider socialism as private enterprise imbued with entrepreneurial spirit, and possessing private capital.

Steve Denning, a Senior Contributor to Forbes who specializes in Leadership Strategy, for many years worked at the World Bank in numerous management positions authored a book titled “The Age of Agile,” which the Financial Times described as one of the best business books of 2018. In his April 11, 2016 article “What’s Wrong With Big Business?,” he wrote in part that,

“Trump and Sanders are drawing huge crowds and entertaining them with their respective explanations of how “the system is rigged.” The underlying theme is similar— the average person can no longer get ahead just by working hard—even if the recommended actions differ. The message is resonating widely, essentially because voters can [see] the evidence for it with their own eyes and from their own experience.

“And it’s not just politicians who are critical. The business-oriented Cato Institute is also calling for “an end to crony capitalism that costs taxpayers $100 billion year and consumers hundreds of billions more in higher prices.”

“The massive Big Business phenomenon of share buybacks—some $3.4 trillion over the last 10 years—has been denounced by such stalwarts of capitalism as Harvard Business Review (“stock price manipulation”), The Economist (“an addiction to corporate cocaine”) and Reuters (“corporate self-cannibilization”).

“…a lack of transparency has been deliberate on the part of Big Business, so that even for those who try to understand, it’s often tough to figure out what’s going on.

“Donald Trump for instance has been explicit about his involvement in twisting the political system for his own financial benefit over the years and even presents this as one of his strengths as a presidential candidate. He is arguing in effect that “it takes a thief to catch a thief.” His extended involvement in crony capitalism is one reason why we are unlikely ever see his tax returns: They may reveal the shocking extent to which he has been able to lower his tax bill by various legal but arcane maneuvers.

“…the wages of average citizens have been stagnating for a number of decades. Despite a soaring stock market, we live in a period of “secular economic stagnation.” Until we understand why this is happening, with a clear comprehension of “who is doing what to whom,” we will never be able to assess whether the conduct involved is moral or immoral, let alone whether it is destroying the fabric of America.

“Big Business likes to talk about the good jobs it provides but the reality is that median salaries in the U.S. have been flat for several decades. This is not because of a failure of workers to become more productive. The truth is that there were gains in productivity but they did not go to workers. Gains that flowed from workers’ improvements in productivity mostly flowed to the organizations and their shareholders, including the executives who received sizable stock-based compensation. Hourly compensation for workers remained practically flat.

Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, has called shareholder value thinking “the dumbest idea in the world.”

Vinci Group Chairman and CEO Xavier Huillard has called it “totally idiotic.”

“Alibaba CEO Jack Ma has said that “customers are number one; employees are number two and shareholders are number three.”

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever has denounced “the cult of shareholder value.”

“John Mackey at Whole Foods has condemned businesses that “view their purpose as profit maximization and treat all participants in the system as means to that end.”

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, declared in the Huffington Post that this still-pervasive business theory is “wrong.”

“These representatives from Big Business are in good company. The most famous management writer of all time—Peter Drucker—pointed out that in 1954 that the only valid purpose of an enterprise is to create a customer.”

Such words from renown and respected sources could hardly be pooh-poohed.

As Senator Sanders – and others – have frequently said, and continue to say, “our system is broken” and is rigged against the working families of America, not to serve them, but to serve their Corporate owners, and their CEOs.

If we are to save America, we must reform our cannibalistic, immoral, selfish laws which have been perverted to benefit the 1%.

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