About a month ago, I became a victim of one of the many loopholes in all of the rules, regulations, and red tape that are supposed to protect us little people from the ravages of Big Data. Dark Hat hacker types are supposedly lurking under every hedgerow waiting to steal our identity. The very laws that were crafted to protect me were turned against me. I became the victim.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPPA, was enacted to protect all of our private personal health information. Every time you go to the doctor’s office they have you sign some admonition or another about the law’s restrictions and what they are allowed to do with your information. This law–I’m going to call it The HIPPA, because it has that old man on the porch taint to it, worked against me in a big way.
It all started with this nerve pain on the side of my head, which then started to burn. So I did the two things you’re not supposed to do; 1) take a hot shower, and 2) check out the symptoms on WebMD. The first made it worse and the second confirmed my fears–leprosy. It was either leprosy or shingles. Shingles is something old people get.
A glance at the man in the mirror made shingles somehow more likely. Remind me to Google a fun house mirror that makes a person appear ten years younger. If there isn’t one, I claim the patent for that potential “feel-good” best seller now.
A quick trip to the doctor confirmed that the nerve pain and hot water activated rash on my scalp was, in fact, shingles. No worries, an anti-viral medication would help stop the progression of the attack. The doctor briefly explained that Valtrex, the anti-viral, was the same prescription medication used for genital herpes. Interesting, I thought, but why are you telling me this, I wondered?
Here’s where The HIPPA came to bite me in the ass. I’m in the crowded pharmacy line waiting for my prescription to be filled. A couple of grandma types, four or five moms with their half-feral toddlers, and a few working stiffs were all waiting for their meds. My name is called out. Okay, that’s me and I wave letting the harried pharmacist know where he can toss the bag of drugs. I’m ready to catch my drugs like a salmon at Pike’s Market in Seattle one be on my way. But, no…
The Pharmacist decides now would be the time to tell me how lucky I am. From deep behind the pharmacy counter he yells, “Man, you’re lucky this anti-viral was covered by insurance. Valtrex is expensive.” There–as far as the world is concerned, I’m taking an anti-viral and it ain’t for leprosy. The looks I got from a cashier at the counter, one of the toddler-laden moms and, surprisingly enough a grandma type, are all condemning me because they know Valtrex is prescribed for genital herpes.
Does the pharmacist clarify? Does he announce to the assembled masses that I’m taking this for something other than a sexually transmitted disease? No. Because The HIPPA would prohibit that kind of disclosure. Please–tell them. Please share my personal information now! I DON’T HAVE GENITAL HERPES!
I wanted to climb on the counter and yell, “I have shingles dammit!”
I fell victim to The HIPPA. Partial information tossed out there and no one willing to share more of my personal information to save me. I grabbed my plain white bag of anti-viral meds and snuck out. Not without getting a knowing wink from that lecherous grandma…