A Sanction-of-the-Victim News Sandwich

As someone who has been an outspoken critic of the NSA and the third-party doctrine that purports to make their intrusive data-collecting legal, I was heartened to read that several of the major technology companies–Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, AOL and LinkedIn–are calling for the United States to lead a worldwide effort to limit online spying. The companies are advocating “new surveillance principles…includ[ing] limiting governments’ authority to collect users’ information, setting up a legal system of oversight and accountability for that authority, allowing the companies to publish the number and nature of the demands for data, ensuring that users’ online data can be stored in different countries and establishing a framework to govern data requests between countries.”

Most notably, the companies urge that indiscriminate bulk data collection be forbidden. The Times’ authors describe the tech industry as a “powerful interest group” that could have a tremendous influence on this debate. Let’s hope so. It is great to see businessmen stand up for their and their customers’ rights for a change!*

I hope the healthcare industry will do the same. There is so much bad news about Obamacare right now, that it’s difficult to decide which story to include here as single item of “bad news.” There’s this story, in which the Financial Times reports that the new Obamacare exchange health care plans will exclude top hospitals, “including two world-renowned cancer centers.” Just to show you how far the medical care industry needs to go before it can get to where the tech industry is, note that the Financial Times says that “some hospital administrators” are worried about this development and “see the change as an unintended consequence of the ACA.”

You don’t need the equivalent of an Edward Snowden to reveal the true agenda of big government in medicine: the history and very nature of socialized medicine tells us to expect developments like this. And yet hospital administrators, people who should know the industry, and who have already been dealing with government intervention in it, see this as an “unintended consequence”? And then there’s the woman who heads government relations for the Mayo clinic, who says she’s concerned that NOW “the full spectrum from primary to top speciality care, [is becoming] commoditized.” Can someone please tell this woman that the whole reason Obamacare was passed in the first place is because a bunch of politicians whined that health care was too much of a commodity, and that the government needed to come in and fix that? Of course what she means is that, now with additional government involvement in the health care industry, costs have increased even more, making top quality healthcare something fewer and fewer will be able to afford.

And then there’s this story, in which an Obamacare Architect admits that if we’d like to “keep our doctor,” then we’ll just have to pay a lot more to do so. And this story, about the errors in the Healthcare.gov website forms, errors so significant and pervasive that one in four Americans who enrolled at the website in October and November may not even have health insurance come January 1!

Thankfully there is one segment of the health care industry that seems to be waking up to the truth about Obamacare–right here on the left coast! Richard Pollock of the Washington Examiner reports that “An estimated seven out of every 10 physicians in deep-blue California are rebelling against the state’s Obamacare health insurance exchange and won’t participate….” Apparently California doctors just learned in September of this year that their compensation rates for caring for exchange patients would be pegged to California’s Medicaid program–a program that has one of the lowest compensation rates in the country. To expect doctors who live in a state with one of the highest costs of living to accept one of the lowest compensation rates for their work is unconscionable. It’s no surprise that some doctors are considering not just refusing to participate in the exchanges, but, according to Dr. Theodore M. Mazer, a San Diego ENT doctor interviewed by the Examiner, they are also considering retiring early. Moreover, the Examiner reports, many doctors have been listed as participants in Obamacare plans on exchange websites without their permission! Covered California, which alleges that 85% of doctors will be participating in the exchanges, could not be reached for comment on the accuracy of that figure, or of the doctor listings on the exchange web sites.

Kudos to the doctors in California who are standing up for their rights and boycotting the exchanges. Shame on Covered California for concealing doctors’ compensation rates until the last minute, for trying to manipulate doctors into participating without giving them that information and for, apparently, lying about which doctors are participating in exchange plans. This is the sort of behavior that would get a private company brought before an alphabet-soup agency for investigation, fines, etc. I hope California’s doctors won’t let them get away with it.

*FYI, I’ve submitted a much shorter version of my forthcoming law review article on the third-party doctrine to a major blog for publication. As soon as it’s published, I’ll let everyone know. I hope it can have some influence on the debate as well.

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