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Last Updated: Aug 29th, 2005 - 08:33:21


The New Healthcare System by Christopher S. Bentley

September 5, 2005 Issue
Source: The New American
 

 

Applied Digital wants millions of Americans to be implanted with an RFID chip for medical purposes, and the Frist-Clinton bill (S. 1262) would pave the way.

Former Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson, who served in the Bush administration's first term, recently joined the board of directors of Florida-based Applied Digital. Applied Digital is the owner of VeriChip, the company that specializes in making implantable radio frequency identification chips (RFID) for both people and pets.

On July 31, London's The Business reported that Thompson "is putting the final touches to a plan that could result in US citizens having [an RFID] chip inserted under their skin." Scott Silverman, CEO of Applied Digital, told WebMD Medical News on July 27 that "some 2,000 people worldwide are using" his company's implants. "But," the WebMD report noted, "soon he expects that millions of people will get VeriChip implants every year."

Silverman also commented to WebMD that when his company "first announced VeriChip, a network poll asked people if they would put one in their bodies. Only 9% said yes. After FDA approval [in October 2004], 19% said yes. When former HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson joined our board, the rate went up to 33%. But our own study shows that if you ask people whether they would have a VeriChip implant to identify their medical records in case of emergency, the positive response goes to 80%."

Skeptics will dismiss Silverman's optimistic business forecast as greatly exaggerated, and those with a natural distrust of polls will question the validity of the data. But putting that aside for a moment, consider the fact that Applied Digital is positioning itself to get some major help - from the federal government.

According to The Business report, "the RFID capsules would be linked to a computerized database being created by the US Department of Health to store and manage the nation's health records." Thompson said he "intends to publish the proposal in the next 50 days, by which time he plans to have had a VeriChip inserted in his arm." The former HHS secretary is definitely positioned to use his past employment to help his new employer.

Conveniently, on June 16, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced S. 1262, with its very benign-sounding title of "Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act of 2005." During a press conference at George Washington University Hospital, Senator Clinton tidily summed up the nature of S. 1262: "This legislation marries technology and quality to create a seamless, efficient health care system for the 21st century." Senator Frist described it as "an interoperable national health information technology system."

The bipartisan duo proposed before the Senate "three concrete steps" to construct this "seamless" system. The first one would be to establish "standards for electronic medical records." S. 1262 would codify into statute the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, an office already set up by President Bush in April 2004. The coordinator's major duty would be, among other things, to "facilitate the adoption of a national system for the electronic exchange of health information." This certainly looks like the same system mentioned by the July 31 London-based Business report.

 

 

 

 
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