Bill to Create Information Database on Vermonters Passes House

By Angela Chagnon

S.15, “An act relating to insurance coverage for midwifery services and home births”, passed the House Wednesday morning.

Although the title of the bill would have you think that S.15 concerns only insurance coverage for the services described, further scrutiny of the bill shows that something much bigger is contained within it.

Section 3 of S.17 will amend the Vermont statutes (18 V.S.A. section 5087) to establish a “Birth Information Network”. Section 3(a) reads:

“The commissioner of health shall establish a statewide birth information network designed to identify newborns who have specified health conditions which may respond to early intervention and treatment by the health care system.”

The bill authorizes the Department of Health to “collect information for the birth information network for the purpose of preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.”

And what information will the Department of Health collect for this “network”?

“(1) Vital records (birth, death, and fetal death certificates). (2) The children with special health needs database. (3) Newborn metabolic screening. (4) Universal newborn hearing screening. (5) The hearing outreach program. (6) The cancer registry. (7) The lead screening registry. (8) The immunization registry. (9) The special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children. (10) The Medicaid claims database. (11) The hospital discharge data system. (12) Health records (such as discharge summaries, disease indexes, nursery logs, pediatric logs, and neonatal intensive care unit logs) from hospitals, outpatient specialty clinics, genetics clinics, and cytogenetics laboratories. (13) The Vermont health care claims uniform reporting and evaluation system.”

But wait–there’s more:

d) “The network shall provide information on public health activities, such as surveillance, assessment, and planning for interventions to improve the health and quality of life for Vermont’s infants and children and their families. This information shall be used for improving health care delivery systems and outreach and referral services for families with children with special health needs and for determining measures that can be taken to prevent further medical conditions.”

The network, “designed to follow infants and children up to one year of age” who have certain medical conditions that will be outlined by the “birth information council”, is also to be used in conjunction other states’ systems “so that data on out-of-state births to Vermont residents will be captured for vital records, case ascertainment, and follow-up services.”

Parents or guardians may choose to have their child’s personally identifying information removed from the network, but it is unclear whether the parents or guardians will be notified that the information is being taken in the first place.

The privacy-invading Birth Information Network should not be surprising to those who realize the true goal of Vermont’s healthcare bill, H.202. An article titled, “Health Care Reform: a Socialist Vision” gives some shocking insight into why healthcare “reform” has been a major target of those on the left:

“At first glance, it doesn’t seem as though socialism and health-care reform have a whole lot to do with each other. After all, the most visible “left” position in the current discussion of health-care reform merely advocates for the government to assume the function of national insurer, leaving the delivery of health care – from its often-questionable content to its hierarchical relationships – firmly in place. As such, a single payer, Medicare-for-All insurance program is a modest, even tepid reform.”

The article continues:

“Those of us on the Left who have been active in the single payer movement have always seen it as a steppingstone toward health-care justice: until the question of access to care is solved, how do we even begin to address not only health care but also health inequities? How, for example, can working-class Americans, Americans of color, and women demand appropriate, respectful, humane, first-rate care when our ability to access any health-care services at all is so tightly constrained?”

And most importantly:

“In what ways, then, is the modest demand for secure access to health care central to a socialist vision? One is, obviously, that the demolition of the for-profit health-care insurance industry would represent an enormous transfer of wealth from the private to the public sector. Another, as Tony Mazzocchi, founder of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers and of the Labor Party, used to say, is that it opens a window on the social wage. If we can imagine health care as a right, we can imagine housing, education, child care, food, a minimum wage that is truly a living wage – all unacceptable to the capitalist class.” (emphasis added)

I strongly recommend reading the entire article, which is about 2 pages long. It can be found here.

If you’re still not convinced that this has been the goal all along, take note of some comments made by Rep. Mark Larson (D-Burlington), Chair of the Healthcare Committee and sponsor of H.202. The bill supposedly was intended to cut down on healthcare costs by creating a “single pipe” for payment, without effecting the delivery system. But Larson spilled the beans in his final comments at the H.202 public forum in Burlington on April 27th:

When you simplify the financing, you maximize the ability to use payment reform to change the delivery system where we then have the system that has the greatest ability to have less administrative costs and be paying for quality as opposed to volume.” (Empahsis added)

While everyone has been watching H.202, it seems like the rest of this plan is being implemented through bits and pieces in other bills. How many more surprises await Vermonters in the future?