Paul Continues Fight Against National Health ID, But Backers See Benefits

Sep 25, 2019

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is fighting to stop Congress from instituting what’s commonly known as a National Patient ID, calling it a "dangerous idea" that will "centralize some of Americans’ most personal information." Yet many see a long list of positives to creating a unique health identifier.

In this Wednesday, July 31, 2019, file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington. Paul is easing back into public activities after his recent lung surgery sidelined him for part of the August congressional break.
Credit AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Like his father, former Congressman Ron Paul, the Kentucky senator is wary of provisions in the more than 20-year-old Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, he worries could threaten the security of Americans’ health records. Both the elder and younger Paul have sought to block an existing portion of the 1996 law that would allow for the creation of a National Patient ID that they argue could track the medical records of “every individual, employer, health plan, and health care provider” in the country.

While Senator Paul points to the dangers presented by security breaches and state surveillance, National Patient ID proponents suggest the identifier would enable more timely, accurate care while cutting down on medical errors and redundant costs. 

"Thousands of Americans have died due to getting the wrong drug to the wrong patient or due to incomplete or incorrect electronic medical records," Representative Bill Foster, a Democrat from Illinois, told colleagues earlier this year. "All arising from the inability to simply and correctly merge health records from different systems."

But Paul warns that the recent removal of language banning federal funds intended for the development of the ID could “open the floodgates for a government-issued ID to be linked with the private medical history of every man, woman, and child in America.”

“As a physician, I know firsthand how the doctor-patient relationship relies on trust and privacy, which will be thrown into jeopardy by a National Patient ID," Paul, an opthalmalogist, said in release Wednesday. 

The senator is advocating for a standalone law repealing the original authority to create the ID under HIPAA.