Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn had difficulty defending her latest objection to the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — during a CNN appearance on Friday morning. When anchor Carol Costello asked the congresswoman to substantiate some of her claims against the federal law, Blackburn stammered something about “peeping toms” and appeared to be at a loss for words.
Republicans have seized upon the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1994 as their latest cudgel against the ACA, claiming that the privacies granted to consumers under the Act prohibit the sharing of their medical information. Republicans allege that consumers are violating their own privacy by sharing their health information with multiple insurers as they compare insurance policy rates.
The Act only applies to the sharing of their information between medical providers, though, making current Republican efforts to obstruct the law groundless, as New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. pointed out in a hearing on Thursday.
On CNN Friday, Costello attempted to ask Blackburn what information is being illegally shared in the Obamacare exchanges, saying, “So what specifically were you referring to on the website that violates, that could possibly violate HIPAA?”
“Carol, HIPAA requires you to…,” Blackburn began, then changed direction. “It’s the way you structure your website and the way you transit the information, the transfer rights that are there, and when you look at privacy on these websites, what you have to do is keep all of the application information in one server…and then you have to, whether it is a physical server or a cloud server…”
Costello attempted to stem the flow of words, “I’m trying to understand what kind of information you’re talking about,” she said. “What kind of information are you talking about? What specifically does the website ask that I might be afraid might shared with whomever? Specifically. What information?”
“You should be very concerned not only as you navigate the website but as you make a purchase, and then as your information is handled,” Blackburn said, ducking the question. “What we want to make certain is that an individual’s medical information, their financial information is all going to be kept in a private manner. What we do not want is a peeping Tom who is going to look through their PII, their personal identifying information…”
“But HIPAA has to do with medical records,” Costello said. “The only medical questions it asks is ‘Do you smoke?’”
Think Progress reported that Washington and Lee University Law Professor Timothy S. Jost said that HIPAA doesn’t apply at all to the Obamacare marketplace. “HIPAA only applies to health care providers, clearinghouses (and this is a narrowly defined term) health plans, and their business associates,” Jost wrote by email.
Watch the video, embedded below via Think Progress: