Goat Hill Scoop

Updated: May 15

Updates about what's happening on Goat Hill

They Want More of YOUR Data


On February 10th, Alabama House Bill 210 (HB 210) was voted out of the House Health Committee on a voice vote, with no objections. Voice votes are often a sign that politicians don't want their names associated with a bill. The bill was introduced by Rep. Paul Lee (R) from Houston County, Chair of the committee. It does not have any co-sponsors, which can also be a concerning sign. HB 210 makes certain patient data available not only to the Alabama Public Health Department, but also to organizations who are written into the bill. The Alabama Hospital Association, a "statewide trade organization," and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (Medical Association), would appoint the majority of seats on the Hospital Discharge Data Advisory Council established by the bill, with seven and two seats, respectively. This council would advise the State Board of Health on rulemaking. The Medical Association states on their PAC web site that they "worked with ADPH and others in drafting the bill."


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, who has a monopoly position in the individual health insurance market in Alabama, would have one seat at the council table.


Collecting data on child births and cancer could provide important information for hospitals and researchers across the state. However, these organizations want to collect not just cancer data, but also individually identifiable patient information of all cancer patients in the state. What is more concerning is that they would help make the rules on what data is included in a state database.


According to AlabamaVotes.org, the following Alabama House Health Committee members have received combined campaign contributions of $5,000 or more from the Alabama Hospital Association PAC, and/or the Medical Association PAC, since 2014:


Paul Lee (R), Chairman $ 3,500 from Alabama Hospital Association

$ 11,000 from Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Laura Hall (D), Ranking Member $ 2,000 from Alabama Hospital Association

$ 6,000 from Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Wes Kitchens (R) $ 3,000 from Alabama Hospital Association

$ 2,000 from Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Charlotte Meadows (R) $ 2,000 from Alabama Hospital Association

$ 5,500 from Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Craig Lipscomb (R) $ 2,000 from Alabama Hospital Association

$ 3,500 from Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Arnold Mooney (R) $ 2,000 from Alabama Hospital Association

$ 16,000 from Medical Association of the State of Alabama

Neil Rafferty (R) $ 6,000 from Alabama Hospital Association

Pebblin Warren (D) $ 7,000 from Alabama Hospital Association


Jeremy Gray (D), Rhett Marques (R), Ed Oliver (R), and Chris Sells (R) (who was not present for the committee vote) have each received a combined amount of $3,000, or less, from these two organizations. You can draw your own conclusions about these political contributions.


There Is More To The Story


In February, 2020, before the Covid-19 virus was declared a pandemic, former Rep. April Weaver (R), who is currently running for the state Senate District 14 seat in a special election, introduced HB 103, with no co-sponsors. (April Weaver has received $14,000 in campaign contributions from the Medical Association PAC since 2014). That 2020 Weaver bill has been re-introduced in the current legislative session as HB 184 by Rep. Lee and Rep. Timothy Wadsworth (R), who is Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. (Timothy Wadsworth has received $7,500 in campaign contributions from the Medical Association PAC since 2014).


HB 184 would require "health care providers to report vaccines administered to the immunization registry" of the State Board of Health. It states that “the nature of the immunization information contained in this registry, shall be determined by rule of the State Board of Health and shall be obtained from clinic records." In the current session, the House Health Committee added an amendment that would exempt flu vaccinations from being included in the registry.


At the time HB 103 was introduced in February, 2020, Alabama Chief Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, stated publicly that medical history would be included in the data collected by the state. Whether the state would collect complete medical histories of patients or only the minimal medical information needed to disseminate vaccines would be decided by the State Board of Health. This week, HB 184 passed out of the House Health Committee by voice vote.


Would Your Data Be Safe?


One of the Obama administration's health care reforms was the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which passed in 2009. It has led to a big patient data disaster. According to Health and Human Services (HHS), in 2018 alone, there were 302 medical record data breaches involving 500 or more individuals, which affected over 12 million people. According to HIPAAJournal.com, between 2009 and 2020, over 3700 medical record breaches were reported to the HHS Office of Civil Rights. These breaches included some of the top healthcare industry companies including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Premera Blue Cross, Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, Universal Health Services, Quest Diagnostic, and LabCorp. Are Alabamians to believe that the state of Alabama and all three of these organizations could keep collected patient data safe?


What Needs To Happen

HB 210 should only be passed if cancer patient data is provided anonymously to the state and these organizations. HB 210 should state the specific data which should not be collected and not leave that decision making to groups who have no accountability to the public. Otherwise, unelected bureaucrats turn rules into laws. The personal cancer records of patients should be for patients and their doctors.


HB 184 should also dictate specifically what data should not be collected. Again, that authority should not be turned over to state bureaucrats and third party organizations. Our Founding Fathers did not intend for there to be a fourth branch of government with no representation.


Instead of passing bills that takes patient data without their approval, these legislators should pass a bill that would restrict Ascension's St. Vincent Hospital, in Birmingham, from providing patient data to Google without patient approval. That could be part of a larger bill that reverses existing laws where government overreach has resulted in patient medical records being unnecessarily collected by the government and various organizations.


There is a very concerning pattern on Goat Hill regarding the privacy of patient data and the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. These bills should not pass without the modifications laid out above.

Updated (March 21, 2021): HB 210 passed both the Senate and House. Six Senators did not vote on the bill. In the House, one Senator, Tommy Hanes (R), voted no. It must be a good bill, right? Wrong. In the 1990s, the "Section 230" bill had Republican and Democrat sponsors and major support from both parties. Today, it is likely that EVERY Republican supports changing that law. Many Democrats want to change it as well. AFP views HB210 as a mission creep bill and believes these organizations, which will have no direct accountability to the public, will want more medical categories added later. If there is a breach in the next few years, remember this article. Bad bills get passed and this is one of them.


"Goat Hill Scoop" includes opinion of the AlabamaFreePress.com