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President-elect Barack Obama, as part of the effort to revive the economy, has proposed a massive effort to modernize health care by making all health records standardized and electronic.
But even proponents of Obama's plan have mentioned that ensuring the privacy of patients' records in a nationalized computer network will be tricky. There are obvious concerns about hackers and system failures. And new online health record systems, such as Google Health are not currently subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the national health privacy law.
“This is especially true when you consider the advocates of implementing a program using so-called ‘v-chips’ inserted into people and containing all their medical information. No one has said how much information will be contained in those implants. DNA? AIDS information?” asks political strategist Mike Baker.
“With so much information already being compromised within government security systems, how can Obama possibly promise confidentiality of such records?” he asks.
Although in five years the VeriChip Corp. — the US company creating microchip implants — has yet to turn a profit, it has been investing heavily — up to $8 million a year — to create new markets.
The company's executives have said their present push is the tagging of "high-risk" patients — diabetics and people with heart conditions or Alzheimer's disease.
As the polemic heats up, legislators are increasingly being drawn into the fray. Two states, Wisconsin and North Dakota, recently passed laws prohibiting the forced implantation of microchips in humans. Others states — Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado and Florida — are studying similar legislation.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma legislators are debating a bill that would authorize microchip implants in people imprisoned for violent crimes. Many felt it would be a good way to monitor felons once released from prison.
Another drawback to microchip implants is the suspicion that they are linked to cancer in test animals. Opponents of human microchipping are concerned with the speed with which these chips received approval from the (FDA) US Food and Drug Administration. Opponents such as Dr. Albrecht believe the FDA approval has more to do with politics than medicine.