Health care groups join opposition to Vermont’s patient data collection policy

The advocacy group Vermonters for Health Care Freedom and the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing Vermont’s collection of patient health data from self-insured companies.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled in January 2014 that Liberty Mutual, which offers self-insured health benefit plans to its employees, should not have to report its claims data to Vermont, citing a provision of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Claims data collected by the state is fed into a database intended to be a comprehensive source for all health care payments in Vermont. About 100,000 Vermonters work for self-insured companies, or just under one-sixth of the state’s population.

Vermont is among several states, mostly in New England, working to build so-called all-payer claims databases to better assess health care spending, service quality and access.

In a news release, Vermonters for Health Care Freedom cite a portion of the 2nd Circuit ruling that held the submittal of claims data by companies covered by ERISA creates “significant (and obvious) privacy risks and financial burdens.”

The advocacy group has a “direct and vital” interest to in protecting “personal health care privacy” and in opposing “a governmental monopoly over health care,” according to the release.

“Hacking is widespread and the State of Vermont can do its work without invading patients’ privacy,” said Darcie Johnston, the group’s president.

Association of American Physicians and Surgeons website says it’s a “non-partisan” professional association for doctors. Below that statement is a Fox News clip in which Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., describes it as a group for “doctors who want to fight against big government.”

Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s office petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case in August 2014. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court siding with Vermont. The case will likely be heard in late fall and decided before the Supreme Court’s next term ends in June 2016.

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