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Covered California’s Plan To Collect Health Info Raises Concerns

Privacy rights experts say Covered California should notify patients before tracking their care.

Covered California wants to tap into the health data of its 1.4 million enrollees.

Photo by Brian Myers, Media Arts Center San Diego

Patient records are pictured at the City Heights Family Health Center in 2013.

But privacy rights experts are raising some questions.

Exchange officials say they're planning to create a large database with information on patients' doctor and hospital visits, and prescription drugs. The information could be used to determine whether patients are getting appropriate care.

Pam Dixon, executive director of the San Diego-based World Privacy Forum, said people should have been given the option to keep their records out of the database.

“This is something that most people don’t know about and they don’t expect, and it makes them uncomfortable," she said. "We’re very concerned that it’s going to chill people from getting healthcare.”

Medical records are a popular target of cyber criminals. But San Diego State information systems professor Murray Jennex said with adequate protections, what Covered California is trying to create could be very valuable.

"If there's any hope of controlling healthcare costs, they have to pool all this data together to find out the trends," Jennex explained.

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