Under Medicare rules established in 1999, patients receiving home health care are required to divulge personal medical, sexual, and emotional information. Government contractors — mainly home health nurses — are directed to record such things as whether a senior has expressed “depressed feelings” or has used “excessive profanity.” If seniors refuse to share medical and lifestyle information, their health care workers are required to act as proxies. This means total strangers will be permitted to speak for seniors.
Medicare officials stress that the government protects patients’ privacy. However, the General Accounting Office reported to Congress several years ago that at five of 12 Medicare contractors’ sites, auditors were able to penetrate security and obtain sensitive Medicare information. At a time when citizens are concerned about high health care costs, fewer choices and loss of medical privacy, a single-payer health plan could exacerbate these concerns.”