Friday, February 22, 2013

ACTION ITEM from Citizens' Council for Health Freedom

Dear CCHF friends and supporters,

Please begin now contacting your legislators about the Obamacare Exchange bills which are likely to be voted on March 4 in the House and March 7 in the Senate. They want the final bill to Gov. Dayton on March 22. Plan to join me and Adam (our hardworking CCHF legislative intern) in the State Capitol when they take full floor votes on the Exchange bills. Email Barbara to let us know you'll be there:

There are also two very bad bills you've never heard about in the news. See below. Please come to the hearings!

Your support is urgently needed in this battle. We're working every day (and even evenings) to read and interpret the bills, suggest amendments, inform policymakers, testify, tweet question suggestions to legislators during hearings, and hamper liberal plans. Click here to donate today to our fight against Obamacare and Big Government.

Three Bills:

1) Minnesota Obamacare Exchange (federal takeover center):
The bill has been rushed through the legislature. It is headed to its final committee in both the House and in the Senate. The bill could be voted on by the full House and the full Senate next week. However, the expectation is March 4 (House) and March 7 (Senate). After that, it must go to conference committee. If you need to understand the Exchange better, please, go to our Exchange Realities #1 - #8.
Or follow my tweets on the topic at @twilabrase or by following #MNHIX.

A major difference between the House and Senate bills is the funding. The House bill (HF5), authored by Rep. Joe Atkins (D-Inver Grove Hgts), uses a 3.5% withhold to fund $60+ million in annual operations (3.5% of the individual's premium is kept by the Exchange before the rest is sent to the health plan). The Senate bill (SF1), authored by Sen. Tony Lourey (D-Kerrick), uses the Health Impact Fee (tax) out of the general fund. I testified in House Tax Committee as to how marketplaces are voluntary and live or die according to whether customers purchase a product. The Exchange is not a marketplace. 

The other distinction is data-sharing. The House bill has more detailed requirements for letting the public know about what private data is being shared with whom (state agencies, federal government agencies and "other entities"). The Senate has no requirements for public disclosure:

(b) Government data of the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace on individuals,
employees of employers, and employers using the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace are
private data on individuals or nonpublic data. The Minnesota Insurance Marketplace
may share not public data with state and federal agencies and other entities if the board
determines that the exchange of the data is necessary to carry out the functions of the
Minnesota Insurance Marketplace. State agencies shall share not public data with the
Minnesota Insurance Marketplace if the board determines that the exchange of the
data is reasonably necessary to carry out the functions of the Minnesota Insurance

2) Gutting Minnesota Medical Privacy Laws:
A bill authored by a Democrat and co-authored by a Republican will harmonize Minnesota's strong privacy laws with the federal HIPAA "no-privacy" rule. In other words, Minnesota will no longer be protected from HIPAA. We'll all be under HIPAA's lack of privacy protections. HIPAA allows 2.2 million entities to have access to private medical records without patient consent. That's a federal number!

The only good thing about HIPAA is that is allows stronger state laws to supercede the permissive disclosures allowed by HIPAA. That's why we've had stronger laws for a decade. But House File 824 will force Minnesota to follow HIPAA. House File 824 is authored by Rep. Melissa Hortman (D-Brooklyn Park) and co-authored by Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka). As of yet there is no Senate author.  No hearings are scheduled yet, but please prepare to come to hearings to oppose this bill. If you can testify, that would be great too. Once all the state privacy laws are changed, it may be very difficult to get our medical privacy back. Subscribe to the HHS Policy committee to get the hearing announcement, or stay tuned to CCHF emails.

3) Exempting MN Dept. of Health from Genetic Privacy Law:
House File 589 authored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D- Mpls) would exempt the Minnesota Department of Health from the MN genetic privacy law.

Last session the MN Dept of Health tried to get a complete exemption from the MN genetic privacy law because they feared another lawsuit like the Baby DNA lawsuit CCHF helped nine families file against MDH. The parents won in the MN Supreme Court on November 16, 2011.

Why do state health officials want an exemption? Because, just like with Baby DNA, there are all sorts of other biological specimens from individuals that MDH has taken and stored without legislative authority -- specimens NOBODY knows about. Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville) gave MDH a one-year "get out of jail free" exemption. This session they are back with a bill that would exempt them from the MN genetic privacy law and give them the authority to collect, store, use and disseminate any biological specimens AND health data (cancer registries, birth defect registries, etc) they have or get or take.

Last session, as part of the deal, MDH officials promised Rep. Holberg a list of what they have stored in the department but that requirement wasn't in the Baby DNA bill that passed, so they feel under no obligation to provide the information. NOTE: due to our efforts and your support the collection, storage, use and sharing of Baby DNA wouldn't be under this sweeping exemption from the genetic privacy law. Baby DNA would still be protected. HF 589 will soon be heard in the Data Practices Subcommittee of the House Civil Law Committee. Subscribe to the committee meeting announcements for hearing notification. Or stay tuned to CCHF emails and prepare to join me at the hearing.

I hope you can join us in the fight!

Please donate generously to support this critical work!


Twila Brase, RN, PHN
Citizens' Council for Health Freedom (CCHF)
161 St. Anthony Ave. Ste. 923
Saint Paul, MN 55103

Monday, February 4, 2013

On diluting the power of concerned, active and interested citizens


What I just wrote (04 Feb 2013) to yet another upstart "conservative political activist" group on the Internet seeking my support and engagement:


I am certain that your intentions are wonderful, and I hate to be the one to rain on your parade, but I have some questions about where you appear to be headed with all of this.

First, regarding your "Three Core Principles." These principles are so broadly stated as to be open to interpretation in hundreds, if not thousands, of ways. Liberals and progressives could adopt these principles using their interpretations of "appropriate resources and authority," "specials status and privileges" and what it means to be a "shining city upon a hill." In my opinion, your "core principles" are so vague as to be meaningless in any effective political sense.

Second, it should be noted that there are already dozens--even hundreds--of online politically-oriented sites trying to do very nearly the same thing your sites purport to do. The problem is that all of these efforts by hundreds of different organizations tend to dilute, not coalesce, the power of the folks who get involved. Hundreds of organizations, all with good intentions, all vie for the donors' money while each attempts to support its own overhead and technology efforts.

Why do we complain about the inefficiencies of government with dozens, indeed, sometimes hundreds, of overlapping departments, programs and policies, while feeling that if we do the same thing in the not-for-profit world with well-intentioned organizations it is a good thing? It makes no sense.

There exist already a core of fine organizations with relatively long histories that are fighting for a smaller, constitutionally-limited government, sound monetary policy and free markets. Consider the work of organizations such as Mises Institute, Cato Institute, Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), Future of Freedom Foundation (FFF), Heritage Institute, and many more.

Frankly, rather than dilute our efforts and support more and more overlapping efforts--with all their accompanying overhead--I consider it far more effective to consolidate our efforts and become all the MORE effective by coalescing behind a smaller number of organizations that have already proven their sustainability and effectiveness in some measure.

Of course, many new startup organizations will not give in to this plan. Why? Because they consider their mission "too special" to surrender; because, while they agree with 80 or 90 percent of what these well-established organizations stand for, they still want to squabble over the remaining ten or 20 percent; or, to put it frankly, because they got into this whole Internet activist "thing" because they wanted to start an organization that will be a source of income for themselves personally.

I'm sorry I cannot be more supportive. I just hate to see so much time, energy and effort frittered away while the attentions of the sincere citizens are increasingly diffused, rather than increasingly focused. Nothing could make our liberal/progressive friend more pleased than to see our time, energy and money diffused into the ether with little to show for it because every cause wants to fight the battle under their own banner.

Very truly yours,