The Hub

The Hub

By Susan E. Williams

The Hub is central to the Affordable Care Act. It’s a data collection effort by the government that will be used for insurance exchanges to determine things like eligibility for benefits, whether you’re exempt from the federal mandate, or how much subsidy you should be granted.  It will interact with seven other government agencies and feed state Medicaid databases. Stephen Parente, University of Minnesota finance professor, says: “The federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personalized data in the history of the republic.” (quoted from John Merline of Investors Business Daily).

The Obama Administration says not to worry, that this information will be used with secure tactics, and only contain certain bits about you. Small things, like your social security number to your tax return information. But it’s not just the Hub that’s holding your data body.

There are rising concerns about the built-in privacy of the  sensory and tracking health care technologies on the market. Currently, there is little to no legislation regulating privacy policies for these new technologies. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit advocacy organization in San Francisco, sponsored a study of 43 popular free and paid health and fitness apps.  Researchers looked at the sort of information that was being collected about them while using the app, and then examined what sort of communication the app had with the internet.

Not too surprisingly (unfortunately) many apps sent information to advertising companies, and to as many as ten third parties.  Further, many of the apps (half) didn’t accurately describe or describe at all how their privacy policy works (see admednews for more details). This has pretty nasty implications for clinicians prescribing or even suggesting these apps exist, since they are violating HIPAA regulations and are therefore liable.

This is the implication of all digital technology. Information storage is happening, whether you’re aware of it or not. Yet it’s not all a bad thing. The primary effort of the Hub database is streamlining data sharing, reducing administrative costs across financial, medical, and social institutions, and opening lines of communication. Still, as lovely as that is, equal effort must be made in protecting our personal information as there is in creatively extracting that information.

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