Should doctors and hospitals be required by the federal government to maintain a national network of electronic health records for every individual in America that indicates, for example, whether that individual has had an abortion, a sexually transmitted disease, a mental illness or a drug problem?
Such a system has already been mandated by the stimulus law enacted in February, and politicians in Washington, D.C., would now prefer not to answer straightforward questions about it.
Americans should not let them get away with it.
The stimulus law provided for "the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure" that would include an electronic health record for "each person in the United States by 2014."
The law says these records should contain each person's "medical history and problems lists."
This system holding each American's "medical history and problems lists," the law says, will allow for "the electronic linkage of health care providers, health plans, the government and other interested parties to enable electronic exchange and use of health information among all the components in the health care infrastructure in accordance with applicable law."
When President Obama was pushing his health care plan earlier this year, he pointed to this system as a way the government would save money on health care -- and indicated that a person's full medical history would be included in the system.
"You shouldn't have to tell every new doctor you see about your medical history, or what prescriptions you're taking. You should not have to repeat costly tests," Obama told the American Medical Association on June 15. "All that information should be stored securely in a private medical record so that your information can be tracked from one doctor to another -- even if you change jobs, even if you move, even if you have to see a number of different specialists. That's just common sense. And that will not only mean less paper-pushing and lower administrative costs, saving taxpayers billions of dollars; it will also mean all of you physicians will have an easier time doing your jobs."
At a town hall meeting in Annandale, Va., on July 1, Obama argued that the electronic-health-records system would also reduce medical errors.