Healthcare Data, Privacy And Flip-Flopping Health Wonks… Don’t Miss The HWR!

Tinker Ready did an excellent job with the most recent Health Wonk Review, hosted at Boston Health News – it’s full of great information, so be sure to check it out.  The theme is all about health care data, and the intro article is a must-read from David Williams:  What would happen if health insurance companies tracked our health-related habits the way Progressive tracks driving patterns for insureds to opt to let them do so?  This is similar to the concerns that many people had (and still have) about the results of genetic testing being available to employers and insurers… what can be done with that data?  Of course, the key is that Progressive only puts the tracking device in cars if their insureds give Healthcare Data, Privacy And Flip-Flopping Health Wonksthem the go-ahead.  If my car insurance company offered that, I’d be happy to let them put one in my car.  And I think I’d also be willing to let my health insurance carrier track various data about me from a health standpoint.

The ACA has built-in limitations on using medical data to set rates or make eligibility determinations, but I can see real-time health tracking data being used for all sorts of purposes a decade from now.  Heading out to the porch for an after dinner cigarette?  You could get a text from your insurance company advising you to take a nicotine-free walk instead (or by then, maybe texting will be old-school and our phones will just be able to send messages straight into our thoughts).  Who knows, but David makes a good point:  the technology for significant tracking of day-to-day health habits is already here in some cases, and will be soon in others.  How it will be used remains to be seen, but economic issues will have to be weighed against privacy concerns.

Joe Paduda’s post about the Heritage Foundation’s endorsement of a health insurance mandate back in 1989 is also a good read.  Everything they said back then made good sense, and it still makes good sense – even if they don’t think so any more.  The mandate might not work perfectly at first, because the penalty for non-compliance is small in 2014.  But within a few years, it should be working fairly well to get as many people as possible into the pool of insureds and thus spread the cost of care over a much larger population than we our current system.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in this Health Wonk Review too.  Many thanks to Tinker Ready for putting it together!

About Louise Norris

Louise Norris has been writing about health insurance and healthcare reform since 2006. In addition to the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, she also writes for,, Verywell, Spark by ADP, and Boost by ADP, and Gusto. Follow on twitter and facebook.

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